As we get closer to Halloween, people are preparing to celebrate in many ways. Some dress up in their favorite costume, others decorate their houses, and some prepare for trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. However, there are some Halloween traditions that could result in a criminal conviction, and possibly in jail. Before you decide on how to celebrate Halloween this year, be sure it doesn't violate the law.
One type of criminal charge people risk during Halloween is, fittingly, Criminal Mischief. Criminal Mischief involves damaging or destroying property that does not belong to you, or tampering with it to impair the use of that property. This is a Class D misdemeanor crime, which carries a maximum punishment of no more than one year in jail and a $2,000.00 fine. Additionally, you would likely be liable to pay for any damages inflicted on the property, up to and including replacing the damaged property. How does this relate to Halloween? Pulling pranks is a time-honored tradition on Halloween, whether it includes “TPing” a house with toilet paper, throwing eggs at someone's house, or other types of Halloween mischief.
In some extreme cases, if you are not careful, you could face a felony charge of Aggravated Criminal Mischief. This felony is for people who damage property worth more than $2,000.00. Also, damaging law enforcement equipment, utilities, and other types of government property can result in a felony charge. This would include any damages to road signs, fire hydrants, public restrooms, etc. You can also face this charge if you damage something that endangers human life, or set something on fire that isn't a dwelling or structure. Class C felonies carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $5,000.00 fine, and two years of probation. Felony convictions also carry their own penalties, such as losing the right to possess firearms and ammunition, the right to vote, etc. If your version of Halloween fun involves property damage, you could face a criminal conviction that follows you for the rest of your life.
Halloween celebrators are known to take things too far and occasionally find themselves facing a charge for Criminal Trespass. This crime involves going inside places you know you are not allowed in, or not leaving a place after someone lawfully tells you to leave. If you enter a dwelling that you are not supposed to be in, you can face a Class D misdemeanor charge of Criminal Trespass. Most other types of criminal trespass include entering a locked structure, entering a place that is clearly marked with “No Trespassing” signs, entering a place surrounded by fencing by “hopping” the fence, or entering or not leaving a place after someone has lawfully excluded you. These are Class E misdemeanor offenses for Criminal Trespass. Class E misdemeanors carry a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. For those who like to explore places they should not be in on Halloween, a Criminal Trespass charge is a legitimate concern.
Whether it's going to the local haunted house without permission, entering the woods where there is a no-trespass order, or walking around in a cemetery at dark, all these “tricks” can result in a Criminal Trespass charge. In fact, there is a specific provision for cemeteries, where no one is allowed in between a half hour after sunset and a half hour before sunrise, unless local laws or private organizations say otherwise. People who have fun on Halloween by exploring places they shouldn't be face having a criminal conviction on their record for potentially the rest of their life.
If you are charged with Criminal Mischief, Criminal Trespass, or any other crime, call the attorneys of WTB LAW immediately to schedule a consultation and prepare a defense.