For children and parents who go out trick-or-treating or to haunted houses during Halloween, the season is an occasion for fun and creativity. But for older children and teens, Halloween can also lend itself to a degree of mischief that can sometimes border on criminal. It's important to know where the line is between a bit of fun and a potential arrest, so you and your family can keep the holiday lighthearted, and potentially avoid a trip to the local jail.
A history of vandalism
Vandalism has traditionally been a problem on Halloween. 2013 data from the Highway Loss Data Institute shows that Halloween has the highest rate of reported car vandalism of all the days of the year. Des Moines has historically held its own tradition of 'Beggars' Night' (October 30) to help stem the problem of Halloween-related vandalism, which had peaked by 1938. During Beggars' Night, children could only ask for treats if they recited a joke or performed some other 'trick'.
These days, vandalism is still a concern on Halloween, and can range from the largely reversible practice of toilet-papering someone's house, to smashing pumpkins or more serious offenses like egging a car or slashing tires.
Think ahead, stay safe
In short, use common sense as you and/or your children enjoy the Halloween season. Not only could destroying someone else's property constitute a criminal violation; you also cannot predict how a homeowner could react if you or your children are caught in the act. Even seemingly innocuous pranks like 'ding dong ditch' have the potential to go awry if the homeowner reacts in an aggressive manner. In one instance in Washington state, two 14-year-old boys playing 'ring and run' were arrested after one stabbed a homeowner who had grabbed him after he rang the doorbell.
It is better to stay safe and out of trouble during the holiday. Having a senseless charge on your record will not help any future plans for work or educational opportunities. If you do find yourself facing criminal charges on November 1, however, it's essential to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help minimize the consequences of your charge and move on with your life.