Halloween is a fun time to celebrate with friends—and to spread a bit of mischief in the dark of night. As long as your pranks don’t stray into the realm of criminal mischief, you’re free to give someone a fright. But, going too far might prompt your target to call the police. Here are some common pranks that might end in arrest.
What’s the Line Between Scary and Criminal?
Most illegal Halloween pranks fall into one of two categories: vandalism or assault. These are the main statutes that cover offenses against people and their property. If your idea of a funny prank causes credible fear or damage, your target may get the last laugh when you’re arrested and fined for your actions.
- Cemetery Pranks: Though Halloween and dead spirits (or undead beings) are often closely linked, be careful how you celebrate that aspect. Anyone who “vandalizes, damages, or treats [a grave] in an offensive manner” can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
- Smashing Pumpkins: A perennial favorite, this “prank” may actually be charged with theft or criminal mischief. Destruction of or damage to another’s property is always illegal, even if the target is nothing more than a carved squash.
- Egging Houses or Cars: As with pumpkin-smashing, coating someone’s belongings with egg can land you a criminal mischief charge. Along with a potential misdemeanor, you may face civil charges if your “prank” results in costly damage for the property owners.
- Toilet Papering a House: Another possible criminal mischief charge, toilet papering also requires trespassing on another’s property. You could face misdemeanor charges if your target has posted “no trespassing” signs or if you “received notice to depart but failed to do so.”
Harassment & Assault
- Scaring Someone: Spookiness is the name of the game on Halloween, but if you take it too far, you might be charged with misdemeanor assault. If the target of your scare trick believes you are threatening “imminent bodily injury” they may press charges—regardless of your intentions at the time.
- Egging a Person: Though they break easily enough when you want to make an omelet, eggs can do plenty of damage before their shells crack. Aside from facing assault charges for “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caus[ing] bodily injury to another,” you could be sued to recoup medical costs if anyone gets seriously hurt.
- Prank Calls: Bad jokes aside, prank calls can constitute harassment, especially when they threaten injury or criminal behavior “in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the threat.”
If you’re a minor with a car, the police may also be on the lookout for groups or late-night travelers—because Texas’ graduated license program places restrictions on young drivers in these situations.
Properties Can Enforce Their Own Rules
Privately owned businesses have a good reason for disallowing costumed customers onto their premises, especially those with masks. While there are no laws against wearing a mask in public, property owners are well within their rights to call the cops on anyone who fails to obey them. Don’t let your holiday get ruined by a silly dispute—respect the instructions of store and restaurant personnel.
Arrested for a Halloween Prank?
If your Halloween fun went a little too far and resulted in criminal charges, we may be able to help you. Don’t expect law enforcement officials to find your prank funny and let you go. Halloween is often a busy time for cops, and the extra stress won’t improve their sense of humor. Instead, call an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. Our team can help defend you against assault, theft, and other charges.