Celebrating Halloween – What’s Illegal?

October 26, 2022 Criminal Defense

Dressing up as something creepy and scary is not only legal—it’s encouraged on Halloween! The spookiest day of the year comes with fun costumes, parties, and lots of candy. However, those participating this Hallows eve should be wary of their fun, and what could get them in trouble with the law.

Between viral creepy clowns, drug possession, and sex offenders, it is important to be aware of any scary acts that could happen this year. It also brings up the question—what legal trouble can you get into on Halloween?

2016 Clown Scare

In 2016, multiple states had creepy clown sightings, which became more worrisome the closer it got to Halloween. While some of the stories were merely hoaxes, several real cases incited an anti-clown frenzy that year.

The fear resulted in parents stating they would take “extra precaution” while trick-or-treating, meaning they brought their real weapons with them during the night. “I’ll be carrying for sure,” Kimberly Kersey of Palm Bay said. “I’m terrified of clowns already and if one messes with me or my kids it’ll be to the hospital or morgue they go.”

The Palm Bay police tried to calm its citizens, by advising against any clown costumes. “The problem is that someone dressed like a clown could scare someone and there’s a possibility—a possibility—you could end up with someone getting shot,” Lt. Mike Banish stated his concerns.

The Sun Sentinel reported that Broward County schools announced they would not allow students to dress up in clown costumes, and some stores even said they would pull any of their clown costumes from the shelves.

Despite most of the clown sightings being confirmed as just pranksters trying to get a scare, there was one Florida case of the “creepy clowns” getting in trouble with the police. Two men in Melbourne were arrested after dressing up as clowns and chasing people down the street while making threats.

Verbal Threats in Florida

The two men who were previously arrested during the Halloween season are a great example of how a seemingly harmless prank can still land you in jail depending on the circumstance. Even if you think that a bat is just a prop for your scary costume, under Florida law it could be seen as a Felony offense.

Under Florida Statute Section 784.011 Assault is considered either a physical or verbal threat to harm another person. This must be coupled with an apparent ability to carry out the threat, as well as doing some act that creates a well-founded fear in the other person that violence is imminent. A verbal threat or swinging your arms at someone without making physical contact can be enough to satisfy a charge of Assault.

Assaulting someone in Florida can result in a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to $500 in fines and up to 60 days in jail. Depending on the specific facts, this penalty can be higher, or have further sentencing obligations such as aggravated assault or even domestic violence assault.

Aggravated Assault can be charged when the defendant used a deadly weapon without the intent to kill during the commission of the Assault, or if they committed the assault with the intent to commit a felony. Aggravated Assault is normally charged as a third-degree felony, which is punishable with up to $5,000 in fines, five years in prison, and up to 5 years of probation. If this is committed while participating in a riot, however, this charge can be upgraded to a more serious offense.

To learn more about Assault you can read our blog post here.

Restrictions for Sex Offenders

As Florida is considered one of the strictest states when it comes to sex crimes, there are specific rules that must be followed by any offenders on Halloween. Florida law has prohibited any individual that is listed on the state’s supervised sex offender list from partaking in typical Halloween activities. The following is a list of rules that must be followed by a registered sex offender:

  • No passing out Candy
  • Porch lights must be turned off and blinds must be closed
  • No outdoor decorations
  • No answering the door to any trick-or-treaters
  • Not allowed to attend any Halloween parties where children may be present

These rules may not be apparent or well-known to a person who is registered as a sex offender. That means they could put themselves at risk by partaking in Halloween, not realizing it could very well get them arrested by the police.

Under the Florida Sex Offender Registry, a violation of these rules could result in the revocation of probation or parole. It is not a defense under the law to claim ignorance of these rules and restrictions.

Drug Possession

One thing every parent fears during Halloween is their children getting candy that, well, doesn’t exactly contain candy. It seems like each year a post goes viral concerning candy that actually had an illegal substance inside of it. Drug possession remains illegal in Florida and getting caught with the possession of a controlled substance can result in harsh consequences.

In the last month, reporters began addressing their concerns about a new drug called “rainbow fentanyl.” According to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, rainbow fentanyl is “fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes—[it] is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction among kids and young adults.”

On October 19th, 2022, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the DEA seized an estimated 12,000 pills of fentanyl from the Los Angeles International Airport. The illegal pills were hidden inside candy boxes such as Sweetarts, Skittles, and Whoppers. However, despite concerns from parents with Halloween approaching, one expert claimed that fentanyl pills ending up in a trick-or-treater’s candy bag is “illogical.”

“These drugs…were hidden inside something to try to avoid detection,” said Dr. Ryan Marino, a medical toxicologist and addiction medicine doctor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “The use of candy packaging does not signify that these are being passed off as candy, and certainly does not imply that the drugs someone is going to lengths to smuggle would then be given away for free rather than sold for profit.”

In addition, Capt. Brandon Dean of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department told TODAY that he does not believe anyone planned to place the disguised fentanyl pills in Halloween candy. However, he does still advise parents to check their children’s candy regardless. “There’s always that possibility…that these pills get mixed in with other things…I don’t think the message was we’re worried about people planting stuff in kids’ candy. It was still just be diligent checking your kid’s stuff,” Dean said

Although drug-laced Halloween candy remains more a myth than reality, it does not take away the concern for the rise in fentanyl in the U.S. Experts are still stressing just how serious the public health problem that fentanyl has caused. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of the 108,000 drug overdoses in the nation in 2021 had synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

To read more about the dangers of fentanyl, find our page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida  

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, you may feel terrified. A conviction can have haunting consequences, including expensive fines and potential jail time. Don’t let a criminal charge get you spooked this Halloween—contact a skilled defense attorney in your area today. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients across the state for various charges. Our team will stand by your side and fight for your future. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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