Do You Know the Tricks to Staying Safe on Halloween?

A priest, a nun, and a rabbi walk up to a door in Alabama and get arrested. Not really, but they could under an Alabama law barring people from masquerading as members of the clergy on Halloween.

Alabama isn’t alone when it comes to odd Halloween laws, though the one that bans wearing laughably funny fake mustaches in church does make it unique. There’s a Walnut Creek, Calif., law requiring people to get a permit to wear a mask on Halloween. And Hollywood, Calif., has outlawed the use of Silly String on Halloween night.

Laws designed to take the tricks out of Halloween probably just rile the goblins. They also remind us that it’s a night of mischief: There are lots of children walking along sometimes busy streets and stumbling through dark yards. There are older revelers dreaming up potentially dangerous pranks and downright mean stunts. Then there’s the partying that includes underage drinking.

Yes, bad things can happen on Halloween, things that involve police, lawyers, and judges. The skilled attorneys at the North Carolina law firm of Warren & Kallianos would rather wish you a Happy Halloween from a distance and not see you in need of a legal consultation because of trick-or-treat misfortune. To that end, here are some Halloween tips to keep you and your family safe.

Keep Your Yard Trick-Free

The candy bowl is full, the porch light is on, and the kids are welcome. The implied permission to enter that you’re giving the children could make you liable if one trips over a lawn ornament and is injured. Take a minute to:

  • Give the yard and porch a good look to ensure you have no unintended booby traps.
  • Make sure the visitors have plenty of light. Dark is spooky, but it’s risky for kids in masks and costumes who are busy tending to candy bags and ogling other outfits.
  • Ensure that the treats you’re handing out haven’t been tampered with and that decorations don’t pose a risk of electrical shock or other injury.

Keep Your Trick-or-Treaters Safe

  • Make sure your kids’ costumes don’t pose a trip-and-fall risk or present any other threat of injury. The list of manufacturers and distributors sued because of unsafe costumes is too long for this blog.
  • Make sure your kids’ masks don’t make it too hard to see where they’re putting their feet. Have them remove the masks between houses if necessary.
  • Give your kids an edge against negligent drivers. Prevent pedestrian accidents by putting reflective tape on costumes and making flashlights part of the door-to-door ritual.
  • Don’t let children eat candy you haven’t inspected.
  • Don’t let youngsters trick or treat without an adult at their side.

It’s worth noting that there are sexual predators behind some of the doors kids will be knocking on. There are no laws in North Carolina specifically crafted to keep convicted sexual offenders from handing out candy when children come knocking, but you can go to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s sexual offender database and find out where offenders live.

Arm Your Older Goblins with Knowledge

The North Carolina law against people 16 or older wearing a mask or hood that can conceal their identity has some exceptions, and one is “traditional holiday costumes in season.” So Halloween masks and costumes are OK – on Halloween.

Most teens and young adults are too cool to go door to door on Halloween, but few will pass up an opportunity to suit up for a party, even when Halloween is on a Monday, like this year. Don’t let them out the door without reminding them that:

  • North Carolina has zero tolerance for underage drinking. Period. That includes buying, providing, possessing, and consuming alcohol. The only exceptions for those younger than 21 are consumption for religious, medical, or educational purposes (wine at culinary school, for example).
  • Any detectable alcohol in the blood is considered proof of a violation. A blood-alcohol level of 0.01 or higher means a DUI citation for an underage drinker caught driving.
  • Anyone younger than 21 can be charged with misdemeanor possession of alcohol for having an unopened container in a car or in their possession while on foot. Holding a cup that smells of alcohol or having alcohol breath also can yield a citation for possession.
  • Thinking of hosting a keg party? Having an unregistered, unlabeled keg of beer can result in a fine and up to 45 days in jail.
  • Any adult who allows a minor to drink or falls short of reasonable expectations to prevent underage drinking in their home can be charged with misdemeanor aiding and abetting. If that drinking leads to injury or death, the potential liability could be devastating.

Charges can stack up for underage drinkers. Depending on the scenario, the rap sheet can include being a minor in possession of alcohol, soliciting alcohol, child endangerment law violations, and possession of false ID. Consequences for a misdemeanor alcohol charge can include fines and court costs, an eight-week alcohol education class, and counseling. The ante soars if there’s driving involved:

  • First DUI conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $500, and license suspension of 60 days.
  • Second DUI conviction, if within seven years of the first, is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and license suspension for up to two years.

All bets are off if there is an auto accident with injuries or someone falls victim to other drinking-related injuries.

For those tricksters out there, remember: Vandalism is a serious crime, and that includes tossing eggs at cars and homes. Just ask pop star Justin Bieber, who had to pay a California neighbor $80,000 for damage to a home and got two years of probation in the case, and it wasn’t even Halloween.

Halloween Legal Woes? Contact Warren & Kallianos

If you or someone you love suffers a personal injury through the negligence or wrongdoing of others this Halloween, contact the seasoned professionals at Warren & Kallianos to discuss your legal options. Our dedicated North Carolina personal injury lawyers have more than five decades of combined experience in securing maximum compensation for deserving clients.