Every kid this Halloween will say “trick or treat." We all know they really mean “candy, please." No little trick-or-treater wants a trick. What “tricks" do occur usually involve teenagers toilet papering a neighbor's house, egging, or smashing pumpkins once trick-or-treating ends. The problem is that these pranks are crimes.
Police are unlikely to put up any roadblocks for kids who toilet paper a neighbor's lawn, but this sort of mischief can result in a misdemeanor or even felony charge if it gets out of hand.
It is important that kids know what can happen if they get too wild. To avoid facing criminal charges, have a quick talk with your kids about what is and is not appropriate behavior before they go out.
Vandalism and Criminal Mischief
States and cities have different laws about property crimes. Usually, however, TP'ing and egging are covered under laws for vandalism, criminal mischief, or trespassing. Some cities specifically prevent toilet papering and egging.
The seriousness of the crime will typically depend on the amount of property damage. If your kid loses track of their judgment completely and does thousands of dollars of property damage, which has been known to happen with teenagers, they could potentially be charged with a felony. But even minor property damage is a crime.
Mailboxes Are Different – It's a Federal Crime
Knocking down mailboxes used to be more common. It's done less now, fortunately, since there are serious penalties associated with messing with someone's mailbox. Damaging a mailbox or someone's mail is a federal crime that can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and even prison time. Leave mailboxes alone.
No talk with your kid about responsible behavior is complete without a warning against alcohol and drugs. This is particularly true on Halloween now that THC can be found in candy in many places. Halloween parties for teens will often involve alcohol. Remind your teens that police are on the lookout for underage possession on Halloween, particularly.
The law, and law enforcement, take drug use by teens very seriously, including alcohol. Penalties will vary according to the drug, how much of it, and the minor's age, but expect fines, potential license revocation or suspension, and even jail time.
Serious Charges Are Possible
While teens getting a little rowdy on Halloween is understandable, just remember that the line between typical teenage behavior and a serious criminal charge is blurry on Halloween. Don't damage property, don't use drugs or alcohol, and stay away from mailboxes. Then have fun.
Of course, being a teenager can be hard, and mistakes happen. If your child has been charged with a crime, it's important to protect your rights to avoid lasting damage, when possible, which means getting the help of an experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer.
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