Halloween is a holiday beloved by most American families, and for good reason: It’s full of haunted houses, spooky film nights, and fun costumes. However, for teenagers and minors who decide to perform pranks, the risk of arrest, fines, and even jail time can interfere with their Halloween night festivities, and may even impact their bright futures.
At King Law, our Rochester juvenile crime defense lawyers can handle a wide range of criminal defense cases, and we understand how to defend against overzealous prosecutors looking to make an example of your child after a Halloween prank gone wrong. One mistake shouldn’t define your child’s future – and regardless of their guilt or innocence, your child deserves a fair and thorough defense if accused.
Of course, the best way to protect your teen from criminal charges is to review the laws with them before they leave the house. In this post, we’ll touch on a few of the ways you may be able to prevent your teen from facing Halloween-related criminal charges.
COMMON HALLOWEEN PRANKS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES
Since coming to America with Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 19th century, Halloween has had a rocky relationship with United States law enforcement. In fact, many early lawmakers actually tried to ban the holiday altogether, along with the often destructive and even violent pranks that it inspired. Even the practice of trick-or-treating was viewed with suspicion by police officers until its widespread adoption in the 1950’s.
Today, Halloween is mostly considered a harmless holiday for the whole family. However, there are still many stigmas against Halloween night traditions – to the point that some cities in Virginia have even banned trick-or-treating over the age of 13, and other cities have begun to follow their lead. Teenagers who ignore the law against trick-or-treating in these areas can face up to $100 fines and a misdemeanor charge, with the potential for up to six months in jail.
Thankfully, no New York cities have banned children from trick-or-treating just yet, although children of all ages may face curfews in some jurisdictions. But there are still a wide range of charges that your teenager could face on Halloween night for their antics, harmless or otherwise. Because the state of New York will charge them as an adult at 16 or older, these charges could carry lasting consequences.
Some of the most common charges given to teenagers on Halloween night include:
- Trespassing: Your teen may know that it’s wrong to enter a property without explicit permission, but in the holiday excitement, poor judgment can often prevail. Teens breaking into residential or commercial properties to use hot tubs, commit damaging pranks, and perform acts of vandalism can be arrested for trespassing. Even for first offenders, trespassing can mean a Class B misdemeanor and up to 90 days in jail (New York Penal Code, Section 140.10).
- Vandalism: According to a report published by Travelers Insurance in 2016, crime-related insurance claims spike by 24% on Halloween night, making it the number one day each year for property damage. Also known as criminal mischief, vandalism can either be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Depending on the severity of the damage done to someone’s property, a teenager with a spray can face fines ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
- Theft: More than 60% of the total insurance claims on Halloween night are related to theft crimes. Theft is taken even more seriously than vandalism and trespassing, especially for teenagers with a history of kleptomania. The consequences after conviction will depend on the dollar amount stolen, but even for “petit larceny” or petty theft, your child could be asked to pay up to $1000 in fines.
- Disorderly conduct: Usually, disorderly conduct is reserved for adults who have been drinking and making a scene. However, regardless of whether your teen illegally consumed alcohol on Halloween, they can be arrested for disorderly conduct if they are using abusive language or behaving poorly in public. Make sure to remind them to treat others with respect at all times, and to avoid confrontations.
If your teenager is going out with friends this Halloween night, take the time to discuss the risks with them before they leave the house. It could save them their future and their reputation. However, even the best advice can be ignored, and your teenager may still be accused of criminal activity. If that happens, don’t hesitate to call our Rochester criminal defense attorney at King Law today. Our attorney Robert King can provide a passionate and aggressive defense for your child, and prevent them from facing a lifetime of consequences for one alleged mistake.
Contact us today at (585) 270-8882 if you need legal assistance in Rochester and surrounding areas!