The time has finally come to break out all your spooky decorations and grab some candy from the store. Halloween is finally upon us. Due to COVID-19, some cities and counties have advised against Halloween gatherings and in some cases against trick-or-treating, but COVID-19 has not changed your right to defend yourself or your property.
Before you plan an elaborate Halloween costume and set out the carved pumpkin on your doorstep, let’s discuss the mischief and dangers that lurk around the Halloween season.
Defending Against Halloween Mischief
Missouri’s Castle Doctrine allows you to use deadly force if you reasonably believe it is necessary to protect yourself or another person against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony such as murder, robbery, burglary, rape, arson, kidnapping, or assault. You will be justified in your use of deadly force in Missouri when necessary, if an aggressor enters or remains unlawfully in your occupied dwelling, residence, or vehicle. Even in such cases, Missouri courts have held that deadly force should still be a last resort.
How does this apply to Halloween? If mischief makers are loitering outside your residence, you are not justified under the Castle Doctrine to shoot them. If they don’t leave when asked, call the police.
As a general rule, you can use reasonable force to protect property, but not deadly force. If someone is vandalizing your property, you can use reasonable non-deadly force to stop them.
Carrying a Firearm as a Costume Accessory and in Self-Defense
Can a firearm be part of your Halloween costume? Missouri state law permits the open carry of firearms. If you are a concealed carry permit holder, Missouri’s state laws authorizing the open carry of firearms will override local ordinances. If local ordinances forbid open carry and you are not a concealed carry permit holder, you would be breaking the law and subject to penalties.
You know your own neighborhood. If the legal open carry of a firearm will cause a stir, consider other self-defense options such as concealed carry. Further, non-lethal self-defense products such as pepper gel, mace, pepper spray, and tasers are legal to carry in Missouri.
However, both Cat-eye keychains and brass knuckles are illegal in Missouri, so make sure any costume weapons you choose are legal to carry. You don’t want your Halloween evening to be interrupted by police if someone gets scared.
Further, a firearm can be part of your costume even if you are wearing a mask due to COVID-19 or as part of your costume. Missouri does not have a law which prohibits you from carrying a firearm while wearing a mask. Many rumors have circulated regarding laws which might affect carry rights during the COVID-19 pandemic due to mask wearing. To be clear, in Missouri, neither a Halloween mask, nor a COVID-19 protective mask will affect your firearm carry rights.
For any questions regarding activities and home defense during Halloween, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.