Law Talk Episode 28: Virginia’s Halloween Laws

In today's episode of Law Talk, Jennifer and Andrew talk about the spooky laws which surround the holiday of Halloween in Virginia!

Andrew: There we go. All right.

Jennifer: There we go.

Andrew: It’s Halloween.

Jennifer: It is.

Andrew: It’s holiday time. Happy Halloween everybody.

Jennifer: Happy Halloween.

Andrew: Today we have a special topic to talk about, which is sort of Halloween laws.

Jennifer: Right. The weird ones.

Andrew: Yes. Virginia has a lot of very odd laws.

Jennifer: Yes.

Andrew: But a lot of them relate to sort of like stuff that people are commonly charged with one night, such as Halloween. In addition to sort of just like state or, like city or other local ordinances that specifically target shenanigans that might happen on this spooky, spooky night.

Jennifer: On Halloween, yes.

Andrew: So that’s sort of like the broad topic that we’re going to talk about today, are like what are things that you should probably not do on Halloween to like [crosstalk 00:00:54]-

Jennifer: Or ever.

Andrew: … or ever I guess. Please don’t go like poking around in cemeteries in the middle of the night. That’s not a good idea. So what do you think is a good place to start like there’s so many laws that get broken or bent.

Jennifer: I mean you can start with like you’re regular one. The first thing that comes to mind when you’re walking about Halloween is Trick or Treating, right?

Andrew: Yeah.

Jennifer: So Virginia has local ordinances in different cities. So these are city specific ordinances that talk about Trick or Treating. And most of them have the same language which is if you’re, I think is it 12 years-

Andrew: Yeah.

Jennifer: … you’ve over 12 years old, you can’t Trick or Treat essentially.

Andrew: And you can’t Trick or Treat before 9:00AM or 9:00PM. It’s the other one which is really weird.

Jennifer: Right, right. Yes, it’s very specific. I saw that it has to be from dusk and then parenthesis, some of the ordinances have this 6:35PM if you didn’t know, up until 8:00 or 8:30. So I was trying to figure out whether this is something you know that’s enforced. It’s just weird that you would like, cut out the fun from [crosstalk 00:02:08].

Andrew: I hope not. Yeah.

Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah. No, I mean basically what I read was cops aren’t out there trying to like target 13 year olds. It’s like sending them to jail or-

Andrew: They’re not going to target some like little kid dressed as a ghost who’s out like a minute after the curfew.

Jennifer: Exactly. Yeah, I … No … I mean, most of the police departments that were not going to be asking you for IDs. We’re not going to be stopping the fun for Halloween but that could … the cops would have a legitimate reason to stop you if that were the case. But so, we’re just throwing that out there, so you know. It’s a possibility. Cops say that they won’t really be pursuing that, but you should still be aware of that.

Andrew: It also opens up a broader conversation about like having such a large portion of the population just going out and wandering around the streets in costumes wearing masks.

Jennifer: Yes.

Andrew: Which like, when you really think about what’s going on, it’s very odd and like it’s somewhat reasonable to see, for example, local ordinances where it’s like, “Hey, here are like certain guide lines you need to follow to keep people safe.”

Jennifer: Absolutely. I mean, the idea is we want to keep the people who are giving out candy safe, right, because you have strangers going up to your home, you open the door, sometimes you’re just like leave the door completely open so that could … that has a lot of things could come from that in terms of safety. So it does make sense. They’re just strange.

Andrew: Trick or Treating itself, is basically like a threat, right? Like give me candy or I’ll like-

Jennifer: Right.

Andrew: … commit a crime against your house or something.

Jennifer: Exactly. Exactly.

Andrew: It’s actually I think a really good transition point into sort of like this trick sort of thing.

Jennifer: Right.

Andrew: We’re like what are … You always see things about people who are like, TP someone’s house or their trees or something. Or like do other like minor things of vandalism but that’s really what it is, like it is vandalism.

Jennifer: It is vandalism, yes.

Andrew: So you may want to speak a little bit to that, what vandalism is and how it relates to the trick side of trick-or-treats.

Jennifer: Yeah, so vandalism is, you know, defacing or damaging in some way a property whether it is public or private that is not your own. Or if you’re interfering with the rights of the owner, that could also be considered vandalism. Don’t egg someone’s home if you believe that they will, you know, if it’s a prank to your friend’s house.

Andrew: It’s a prank.

Jennifer: Right. You know your friend probably doesn’t own that home, his or her parents do. So there’s a possibility that you will be reported for this prank. Just don’t do it in generally, but be specially aware that you could be charged with a crime by doing that.

Andrew: And never egg cars.

Jennifer: Yes, yes.

Andrew: Because the egg shells horribly scratch the paint. We’ve talked before about civil damages when you have to pay when you damage someone else’s property. That’s something that people don’t seem to realize. It’s very easy to chip paint.

Jennifer: Yes, it really is.

Andrew: That’s something people need to think about in relation to vandalism. There are better tricks you can do on people that don’t damage their property or do that other kind of stuff. It’s something that comes up, for example, in TV shows all the time. I know a silly example of this is the toilet paper example I used earlier because does that count as vandalism? Because you’re not actually damaging anything.

Jennifer: Right, but you’re still kind of … I guess that would probably fall … I don’t know how the police would charge that, but I’m guessing it would probably be vandalism and then you could count that as interfering with an owner’s-

Andrew: Being a nuasance bascially.

Jennifer: Right, exactly. So just don’t do it.

Andrew: If you’re gonna do a trick on someone, make it so it’s not a big-

Jennifer: Actually an offense. Yeah.

Andrew: Alright. So what are some other things that commonly happen during Halloween. I know one example I thought I was like trespassing. Just because like I … When I was growing up I lived out in middle of nowhere. Whenever I thought of trick or treating I was like, I don’t know walk a mile down this person’s driveway to knock on their door and asked for candy. That seems a bit like guilty.

Jennifer: Right, right. And I mean part of the something like we were talking about earlier about the ordinances they also have like, city have guidance documents for people who want to provide candy to trick or treaters. So, generally you can look at science as to whether they’ll be giving you candy or not, which is having all the lights on that generally suggest that yes you can come up to my driveway. If the trespass was on Halloween night even if you had your lights off. Maybe that’s an argument that you weren’t invited.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jennifer: But probably anything after 8, then maybe just don’t do it. Don’t go up to someone’s home if you haven’t been invited, because that could qualify as trespass.

Andrew: I mean, it’s follow the golden rule. Treat others how you’d like to be treated. Do you want person in a mask knocking on your door at 11pm? Probably not.

Jennifer: Right. And I mean, it’s not just homes, right? Most of the Halloween movies that I watched growing up dealt with kids for some reason, going to a cemetery.

Andrew: This is like one of my favorite laws in Virginia. It’s actually in the code where I think it’s like class three or four misdemeanor to like be in a cemetery after it’s closed or something like that.

Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a class for misdemeanor. You can go and it’s very specific. It has to be at night. You can’t go to the cemetery unless you are you have been invited by the custodian, or one of the families who have loved ones buried there. And so, yes, that is a class for misdemeanor and the penalty is I think, not more than $250, but it’s still an offense and it’s still a misdemeanor. So it will be a criminal a convictions.

Andrew: You don’t have to explain that to your college or your potential future employers like, “Hey, I was like poking around a cemetery on Halloween a couple years ago.”

Jennifer: Right, right. And I mean, it’s also disrespectful. I know like it’s part of the whole tradition. But when you put when you put it in context, like that’s why the law is there. Because it’s disrespectful to the family members of those who are resting there.

Andrew: Because I mean that particular law is often grouped with things like don’t do the exact same thing with a church like don’t break into a church on Halloween. It’s I think, like the one directly before or after it.

Jennifer: Right.

Andrew: It’s just generally like there are laws that basically tell you like, don’t trust pass on properties. Specifically property like related to those sort of like religious side of things because it is disrespectful.

Jennifer: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But I mean, though, that is like the culture. What is that movie? Oh my god. Hallow town or Halloween town.

Andrew: Halloween town was … I don’t remember. It’s a lot of Halloween movies.

Jennifer: Yeah, there’s a lot of movies like generally you end up at a cemetery at some point in movie. So, I can see the appeal and why it will be interesting to go. But I just know that that is a criminal offense if you do decide to do it, and you will have to face the consequences of your accord.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jennifer: Yeah. But other just talking more generally addressing adults, I guess there’s a lot of Halloween parties and that involves a lot of drinking. So those are also common crimes that people get charged with during Halloween is like, public intoxication, DUI’s.

Andrew: I was about to say yes. But so for example, I go to UVA and one of the biggest nights of the year is the weekend either before or after Halloween.

Jennifer: Right.

Andrew: Because there’s essentially just a giant block party where people are just walking around with like alcohol and stuff. And it’s a problem because like technically it is against the law because of like public intoxication. And have we mentioned the mass claw yet?

Jennifer: We haven’t.

Andrew: [crosstalk 00:10:55] real quick because that’s something that I see a lot [crosstalk 00:10:58].

Jennifer: So, in Virginia, obviously you’re going to dress up for Halloween. And that may or may not involve masks, but in Virginia, it is unlawful for someone over the age of 16 to wear masks, obviously for obvious reasons. I mean, you have people covering up their faces to commit crime. But there is an exception, though, so Halloween would be considered a holiday. So within the code, that code section there, the exception is that if it’s a holiday then it’s okay because it’s part of your custom. But you still probably if you’ve been drinking and you’re just like going about just walking, doing shenanigans in the middle of the street and your face is covered that may cause you some problems.

Andrew: Another thing I saw related to that it’s there’s a lot of local ordinances similar to the trick or treating loss I talked about earlier that sort of like contradict that part of the Virginia code. Where it’s like, well yeah, we’re gonna charge you like a local crime if you’re out in the middle of the street wearing a full mask, like scaring people.

Jennifer: Yes. Yes. And again, according to what the various news articles that I read, different police departments I think it was the ones that were specifically mentioned were Hampton Roads, [inaudible 00:12:24] news, Virginia Beach. They all said that they understand the-

Andrew: Holiday appeal.

Jennifer: … the whole the whole holiday. Right. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to pursue it. If they have an ordinance like that one then they do have the ability to stop you and question you or press charges against you depending on what your conduct was. Yeah.

Andrew: And I feel like that brings us back to one of our original points of like that an officer is not going to go out of his way to arrest you because you’re walking down the street with a werewolf mask on. But if you’re doing it and disturbing the peace is a term that’s thrown around the line. If you’re being a nuisance about it then they do have the legal right to stop you, to question you, to do whatever.

Jennifer: Right.

Andrew: So it’s definitely something you want to keep in mind of don’t go around bugging people, especially if you’re doing certain things that we’ve talked about so far.

Jennifer: Yes, yes definitely.

Andrew: Sort of to bring it back to our point of drinking, though. That’s something that I know is a huge problem, especially on holidays like Halloween.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Andrew: Because there’s this huge uptick in like public intoxication, underage drinking, drunk driving. So do you want to sort of speak to that and like … Yeah.

Jennifer: Yeah. I mean that that’s something that those are charges that you could get any night raid. Obviously because of the parties that we mentioned like, especially colleges like, for example, UVA. [inaudible 00:13:53] I know I got several invites to Halloween parties and that it just keep in mind that if you’re going to be drinking, you shouldn’t be driving. You could also get a charge of public intoxication of you are visibly drunk. You can barely walk and you are out and about in the street, just like walking that could be a public intoxication charge. And the problem with that is that not only do you have … It fits like in a college campus, if not only are you going to have criminal convictions, you’re also going to have to report that to the school and then face whatever consequences the school has within their student code.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jennifer: If you do end up racking up those charges, then you should probably speak with an attorney. It might have been the case that you had a few drinks and it’s been several hours but for some reason, when you had the breathalyzer test that it came up as being above the legal limit, so above 0.8. There might be ways that you could challenge that or we could figure out a way if it’s possible to bring down the charge or just reach an agreement because it could impact your DUI conviction is, is a very serious crime. Public intoxication as well, could have a lot of consequences now and in your future. So you want to avoid those types of charges if possible.

Andrew: Yeah, I know we talked about collateral consequences recently, but like really any criminal conviction is going to result in consequences.

Jennifer: Right, right.

Andrew: Whether it’s the loss of your license or more serious things like, if you commit a felony for example, like loss of gun rights, voting rights, all that kind of stuff.

Jennifer: Right.

Andrew: So it’s definitely something you want to … When these things are at stake, even if its on over Halloween, it’s still a serious crime that you need to treat very seriously.

Jennifer: Right, right. And I mean, I know tonight is going to be fun for a lot of people. It’s just to be and that legal consequences are going to be in the background of your mind, or they might not even be on your mind. So we just try to before you start drinking, or before you start celebrating however you may want to celebrate just keep in mind to do it responsibly, to not disturb anyone that could lead to you being charged with anything So just have fun.

Andrew: Yeah, and I mean, we’ve talked a lot about like the legal side of things, but just in general, be responsible, be safe. Don’t put yourself into a situation where these things might arise.

Jennifer: Right.

Andrew: Police officers don’t want to ruin everyone’s Halloween night. But if you’re actively disturbing people for any reason, or are a threat to other people such as drunk driving, they’re going to pull you over for your own safety if not for like others.

Jennifer: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes.

Andrew: Alright. So Was there anything else specifically you wanted to chat about for, like Halloween stuff? Like, it’s such a broad thing because-

Jennifer: it is.

Andrew: … there’s so many laws that people can break. It’s just they become more commonly broken on things like Halloween.

Jennifer: No, just … Oh, if you’re going to be giving out candy, don’t be weird to kids, because certain conduct on the part of the person giving out candy could raise parents suspicions and it could lead to maybe some complaints to the police officers and then that might lead to the police officers coming up to your house. So just be nice, but not overly friendly with children.

Andrew: Yeah, and also don’t try and scare them too much. Please don’t give five year olds heart attacks when they’re trying to ask for candy.

Jennifer: Yes, yes. Please don’t. But do have a lot of fun. Just make sure that you’re doing it responsibly and respectfully.

Andrew: All right.

Jennifer: That’s about it.

Andrew: Awesome. So that’s really fun.

Jennifer: Yes.

Andrew: As one final note, yeah, everyone, just be safe tonight. Be responsible but have fun.

Jennifer: Yes.

Andrew: So we’ll see everybody next Wednesday, same time, same place. And I hope everyone has a great time tonight.

Jennifer: Bye.

Andrew: Happy Halloween everybody.

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