Halloween festivities have been a long-standing tradition in America since the later part of the 19th Century. Adults, teens, and children alike dress in costumes, trick-or-treat, carve jack-o-lanterns, tell ghost stories, and eat sweet treats. Yet, parties and pranks are not the only mischiefs occurring during the night of “All-Hallows-Eve.” While approximately 175 million Americans celebrate Halloween night, crime rates can increase by up to 50%.1 If you plan to partake in the spirit of the holiday, it is important to be aware of the most common crimes that occur on Halloween and to seek legal representation if you are arrested.
Halloween has become infamous for its costume parties and drinking games, with many individuals viewing the holiday as a well-known drinking day. On average, the percentage of adult men who binge drink on Halloween is 19% and the percentage for adult women is 12%.2 Unfortunately, many people decide to drive after drinking, which often leads to tragic results. During Halloween night, approximately 158 people are killed in drunk-driving crashes and 42% of those killed were in traffic crashes that involved at least one drunk driver.3
The penalties for being arrested for DWI in Minnesota are serious as well. If arrested for DWI, you will face both criminal and administrative sanctions. You may have to spend time in jail or prison, pay thousands of dollars in fines, and lose driving privileges. All alcohol-related loss of driving privileges requires a $680 reinstatement fee, DWI knowledge test, driver’s license application with fees, and chemical health assessment.
For a first offense, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor and lose your driving privileges. If charged with a misdemeanor, you may spend ninety days in jail and/or must pay a $1,000 fine. If charged with a gross misdemeanor, you may spend one year in jail and/or must pay a $3,000 fine. You may lose driving privileges for thirty days to a year, your license plates may be impounded, may be required to have an ignition interlock restricted driver’s license for a year, and may have your vehicle forfeited. The penalties increase drastically for second, third, fourth, or more DWI offenses.
If you plan to drink on Halloween, make sure to have a designated driver, a ride-sharing app on your phone, or a place to stay until you are sober. Even if you think you are okay to drive because you only had a few drinks, remember that your breath alcohol content could still be at the legal drinking limit. Don’t let a DWI charge affect the rest of your life.
Adults are not the only ones waking up with a hangover the day after Halloween. Teenagers age 12 to 20 drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States and consume more than 90% of their alcohol by binge drinking.4 Despite underage drinking being statistically common, the penalties against underage drinking are severe.
Minnesota has taken a “zero tolerance” stance against underage drinking, which means that even trace amounts of alcohol can result in penalties. It is illegal for any person younger than 21 years old to consume, purchase, attempt to purchase, or possess an alcoholic beverage, with few exceptions. It is also illegal for any person younger than 21 years old to enter a licensed business to buy, serve, or deliver alcohol.
If a person under the age of 21 violates any alcohol-related offenses, they may be charged with a misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. A minor found guilty of violating any alcohol-related offenses faces a mandatory fine of at least $100.
The crime of disorderly conduct in Minnesota is vaguely defined and it can be easy for someone to stumble their way into a disorderly conduct charge on Halloween night without any intention to do so.
A person commits disorderly conduct when they do any of the following in a public or private place, knowing or having reasonable grounds to know that it will, or will tend to, alarm, anger, or disturb others or provoke assault or breach of the peace:
- brawl or fight,
- disturb a lawful assembly or meeting,
- engage in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct, or
- engage in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.
Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor and is punishable by imprisonment of up to 90 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Fights breaking out at a Halloween party may not seem like that big of a deal, but an assault conviction can result in extensive imprisonment sentences and fines, and can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the event. A person who commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death, or intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another has committed a misdemeanor assault. In other words, striking someone, trying to strike someone, or lunging at someone intending to cause them fear of bodily harm is assault. Injury and physical contact are not required. A misdemeanor assault conviction is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Whoever assaults another with a dangerous weapon, but does not cause substantial bodily harm, may be sentenced with a felony, which is punishable by up to 7 years and/or a fine of up to $14,000. A dangerous weapon is any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, or any object or instrument that can likely cause death or serious injury. This is a broad definition and can include, for example, a car, golf club, knives, canes, stones, and even parts of the human body depending on how a person has used them.
There are many other circumstances that can result in criminal assault charges ranging from fifth degree assault to first degree assault. Because assault charges can result in lifelong consequences, it is imperative to get an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side as soon as possible if you are arrested for assault.
From throwing eggs, toilet-papering houses, to destroying decorations, vandalism is extremely common on Halloween. However, what seems like some harmless mischief can result in jail time and fines. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the vandalism and the monetary damage done to the property, penalties can range from imprisonment for up to 90 days and/or up to $1,000 in fines all the way to imprisonment for up to 5 years and/or fines of up to $10,000.
While sneaking into places you are not supposed to be at can seem like fun, being arrested for trespassing is not quite as much fun. Some examples of common acts committed on Halloween constituting criminal trespass are entering a cemetery without authorization while the cemetery is closed to the public, entering school property without authorization when the school is not open to the public, unlawfully interfering with a sign marked to designate a point of a boundary, and, of course, entering onto another person’s private property without the consent of the homeowner. Criminal trespass charges in Minnesota can be misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000. A gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year of imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of up to $3,000.
Trick or Theft; Halloween night sees a rise of theft ranging from stolen candy to vehicle theft. Simple theft can quickly turn into felony charges, with only a thin line separating a misdemeanor offense from a felony offense in Minnesota. A criminal record with a theft conviction can have a life-long impact, with the criminal record affecting a person’s ability to find housing, to find a job, and to qualify for a credit card or loan. A theft conviction may also result in job suspension and termination.
Misdemeanor theft occurs when the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or less and is punishable by up to 90 days imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Gross misdemeanor theft occurs when the value of the property or services stolen is more than $500 but not more than $1,000 and is punishable by imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $3,000. If the person who commits a gross misdemeanor has a recent history of theft, the charge becomes a felony offense punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Felony theft occurs when the value of the stolen property is valued at more than $1,000. The penalties of felony theft range from imprisonment of up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000 all the way to imprisonment of up to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
A person who steals personal property from another may have to pay the owner of the stolen property or services for the property’s or services’ value when stolen plus punitive damages of either $50 or up to 100% of the property’s value, whichever is greater.
Avoid Temptation – Otherwise, Call Us
While these are the most common crimes committed on Halloween night, every case and every person’s situation are unique. If you have been arrested and have any questions about your situation, please give us a call at 763.421.6366.
1 James Alan Fox, The Halloween Crime Spike, Boston.com (Oct. 31, 2013), http://archive.boston.com/community/blogs/crime_punishment/2013/10/ghosts_goblins_and_violent_cri.html.
2 American Addiction Centers, Inc., Booziest Holidays, Alcohol.org, https://www.alcohol.org/guides/booziest-holidays/ (last visited Oct. 4, 2019).
3 United States Department of Transportation, Halloween, Traffic Safety Marketing, https://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/get-materials/drunk-driving/buzzed-driving-drunk-driving/halloween (last visited Oct. 4, 2019).
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fact Sheets: Underage Drinking. Atlanta, GA: CDC, 2016. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm. Accessed 1/20/17.