Every year on Halloween, plenty of revelers choose to trick instead of treat. And while pulling Halloween pranks is a time-honored holiday tradition, some antics can land tricksters in trouble with the law. Here’s a look at some Halloween hijinks that can and have gotten pranksters arrested:
Snatching a bag of candy from a child or swiping a homeowner’s stash of goodies off a porch is more than a Halloween caper — it can be criminal. In the eyes of the law, taking something without permission from someone who has a greater right of possession and keeping it constitutes theft and can result in a fine and possible jail time. What’s more, theft is also considered a “crime of moral turpitude,” which basically means the general public considers it morally wrong.
A Staten Island woman found this out in 2015 when she was captured on video taking two buckets of Halloween candy off a family’s porch. The family had left the candy in good faith with a sign that read, “Save some for others,” while they took their own son trick-or-treating, according to story reported by CBS New York. The woman was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor petit larceny, but the video went viral and created some serious candy-stealing backlash.
Throwing eggs at cars, homes or people is considered more than a Halloween prank by police. Egging a car or home can result in paint damage, broken windows or worse. Depending on the facts and the amount of destruction, it can constitute vandalism or criminal mischief. In Texas, for example, criminal mischief occurs when an individual intentionally damages or destroys property, tampers with property, causes a loss of inconvenience to the property owner, or creates markings of some kind on the owner’s property.
Many Halloween egging incidents across the country would qualify as criminal mischief in Texas, but each state has similar laws in place. In 2013, in Newington, Connecticut, two women donning costume masks were arrested after allegedly egging the car of one of the women’s former neighbors on Halloween night “as revenge for years of disputes,” according to a story in the Hartford Courant. The pair were subsequently charged with breach of peace and criminal mischief.
The year before, two teens from Grapeland, Texas, were arrested on a much more serious charge after they allegedly egged an elderly woman during a Halloween prank. According to KLTV news, the teens were accused of throwing eggs in the face of a 71-year-old when she opened the door to what she thought were trick-or-treaters. They were each arrested on a felony charge of injury to the elderly.
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TP’ing trees and houses may seem like relatively benign behavior as far as Halloween pranks go, but it can really make a mess of things. What some find funny, may leave others fuming. Possible charges for toilet papering could include littering, trespassing, or criminal mischief.
Although it didn’t happen on Halloween, a Colleyville, Texas, mother was arrested in July 2012 and charged with felony criminal mischief after she was accused of leading middle school students through a series of pranks that including rolling a house with toilet paper, writing graffiti on outside walls and placing chicken in a mailbox, according to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. (The charges were later dismissed after she paid $1,900 in damages.)
Smashing pumpkins, mailboxes, and graffiti
Reports of smashed pumpkins, bashed mailboxes, overturned headstones and graffiti fill local police blotters in the days before and after Halloween. While it sometimes makes for entertaining reading, the consequences for those that get caught can be severe. Charges could include theft, vandalism, criminal trespass or criminal mischief. Depending on the charge and the damage, punishments could range from a misdemeanor to a felony, which could result in fines or jailtime.
Last Halloween, a former Salem, New Jersey, 911 operator was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct after she allegedly took two female teens on a Halloween vandalism spree that included slopping paint on a school sign, vehicles and a mailbox, according to the NJ.com.
Lighting bags of manure
Placing a flaming bag of manure on someone’s doorstep is one of the oldest pranks in the book, but it could land you in deep…well, you know. If the fire spreads to the doormat or a building or structure, charges ranging from criminal mischief to arson could potentially apply.
While on the subject of fire, it’s important to point out that pulling fire alarms or making false alarms can also land you hot water. In 2009, a Florida man dressed as Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson was arrested in Naples after he allegedly pulled a fire alarm at a popular night club on Halloween, according to ABC7 news. He was charged with falsely activating a fire pull station, a felony.
Ghosts aren’t the only spirits in abundance on Halloween night. While drinking technically isn’t a prank, many Halloween escapades have stemmed from a night of imbibing. Halloween parties are held at homes, dorms, bars and clubs, which means police are out in full force looking for people violating the law, including minors in possession, public intoxication, driving while intoxicated and disorderly conduct.
A Halloween party in Friendswood, Texas, resulted in 11 arrests and the deployment of numerous emergency officials after a party with about 100 party-goers got out of hand, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle. When police arrived, several teens jumped into a flooded creek in an apparent attempt to escape, prompting a search and rescue operation. All of the runners were eventually found safe, but were charged with evading arrest.
Surprising and scaring strangers
It’s not uncommon for people to put on masks and scare people on Halloween, but every year, someone takes it too far. In 2017, a man wearing a mask from the movie “Scream” and wielding a fake knife was arrested after scaring two unsuspecting women who were unloading their cars at a Florida apartment complex in separate incidents, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Apparently, both women believed the knife to be real and ran inside in fear for their lives. The man was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening the women.
Meanwhile, at the University of Illinois that same year, two students were charged with aggravated assault after they were reportedly walking through campus dorms donning masks and carrying knives as part of a Halloween prank.
While some of these are extreme examples of Halloween escapades, the takeaway is this: Halloween is supposed to be fun, but poor decisions can haunt you long after the holiday is over. Be safe and, if Halloween mischief gets you in trouble with the law, give us a call at 817-203-2220. We can help.
Also published on Medium.