Are Teenage Trick-or-Treaters Breaking the Law?


Beaker/Bunsen's Severed Head image courtesy of reader Lisa Kuchy

We’ve already told you that your Halloween candy probably isn’t poisoned. Today let's focus on another great Halloween rumor, the one that says it becomes illegal to trick-or-treat once a kid hits a certain age.

It depends on where you’re trying to bag some fun-sized Snickers. Various towns around the country have age limits for trick-or-treaters, but the policies are hardly uniform. Most rules, like the one Belleville, Illinois, enacted in 2008, cap the trick-or-treating age at 12. Once you hit those golden teenage years, the free candy gravy train goes off the tracks.

Why 12? Belleville mayor Mark Eckert gave a gem of an explanation to the Associated Press.

“When I was a kid my father said to me, 'You're too damn big to be going trick-or-treating. You're done.’ When that doesn't happen, then that's reason for the city governments to intervene."

The basic reasoning behind most of these age caps makes sense; some citizens get a little, er, spooked when costumed teenagers who are physically mature show up at their door. Plus, a lot of people are of the opinion that trick-or-treating is really more of an activity for little kids.

The penalties for violating the age cap can be pretty stiff for a teenager: jail time and fines of over $100. Don’t start clearing jail space to accommodate an influx of costumed scofflaws, though. Every report we can find on trick-or-treat age limits notes that nobody remembers the rules ever actually being legally enforced. If anything, it sounds like the heinous crime is generally punished with a call to the offender’s parents or perhaps a ride home.

About Face

If you’re over 16, though, there’s another potential legal problem for you, and it doesn’t have anything to do with trick-or-treating regulations. According to an Associated Press story from last November, at least 18 states have laws against people 16 or older wearing masks or hoods that cover their faces. The laws hit the books in the early 1950s in an effort to help curtail Ku Klux Klan activity. Even if it’s legal for you to hit the free Twizzlers beat, you might want to make sure your face is uncovered.