Trespass and Halloween - a Tricky Combination
Halloween is the time when most children as well as adults just want to have fun dressing up in costumes. It is the time to get wild and crazy keeping in mind not to get out of control, because the police are on high alert. One reason the police are more vigilant is because some criminals operate under the guise of Halloween costumes in order to perpetrate crimes related to burglary or trespass.
Not long ago in 1992, a Japanese exchange student, Yoshi Hattori along with his host brother went to the wrong house for a Halloween party. Hattori who was dressed in tuxedo to imitate John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever even rang the doorbell but got no response. The frantic homeowner thinking an intrusion on their property shot and killed Hattori despite the victim’s harmless demeanor. Read more on Hattori.
Halloween has made it socially acceptable for people to knock on the door of strangers for trick or treating. But what if a homeowner wants no part of it? Most of us know that the Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable governmental intrusion in our homes but not when one is out in public even if you are trespass in a clown’s costume pretending to trick or treat. Interestingly, the crime of trespass was once a common law of England dating back to 13th century as the king considered it a breach of his peace. The defendant was convicted of trespass with a fine and if the defendant could not pay the fine was imprisoned.
While such laws do exist today, the punishment for trespassing can range from felonies to misdemeanor. Colorado statute 18-4-502 indicates severe penalties for first degree criminal trespass including for disorderly assemblies in any public and private places including loitering. Surely, you do not want a felony or misdemeanor on your record loitering or trespassing as Bin Laden or Batman. Make sure you only visit houses where lights are on or Halloween decorations are apparent. While this seems like common sense, the reality is that not all homeowners observe Halloween and privacy must still be protected. Call the dead but avoid giving anyone reason to call 911.