This Halloween will be quite different from years prior due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many traditional celebrations are being canceled or downsized. Before you plan that 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 Mischief
If things get out of hand on Halloween, you may wonder, “What can I do to protect myself, my loved ones, and my home from mischievous ghouls and goblins on Halloween?” In Oklahoma, you may use reasonable force to protect your property.
You may employ various security devices, lights, cameras, fences, walls, locks, and other security features. However, you may not shoot someone through the door who is on your porch, knocking on the door or windows. Further, you cannot arrive at your unoccupied home and start shooting at someone who is in your yard, on your porch, or refusing to leave the premises. Nor can you point deadly weapons like pistols, shotguns, or rifles at a large crowd of people who may be shouting threats at you from the street. In all of these cases, calling 911 is what we advise.
The presumption of fear of imminent death or great bodily injury is granted to you under the Castle Doctrine when defending your home against an intruder. The Castle Doctrine applies to an occupied home, dwelling place, vehicle, and an attached garage. If a judge finds that the Castle Doctrine applies, then you may receive immunity from charges for defending your occupied home.
But are Castle Doctrine principles applicable when encountering mischief makers who are loitering or vandalizing your property?
To start, remember that there is a difference between trespassers and home invaders. Whenever someone trespasses on your real estate or property, they may be ejected by the use of reasonable force. Reasonable force is the least amount of force necessary to remove a trespassing party and is always less than deadly force. Deadly force is not available against a person vandalizing a home or loitering on the premises. Vandals and loiterers are trespassers and you would only be allowed to use reasonable force to remove them.
Deadly force may only be used by a person when a person’s life is threatened with immediate death or great bodily harm. A home invasion involves a person’s occupied home or dwelling and is a very serious threat under the Castle Doctrine. Deadly force may be used by an occupant of a home who encounters an intruder to defend themselves.
Carrying a Firearm While Wearing a Mask
We are frequently asked if it is legal to carry a firearm while wearing a mask. This question is even more common now that people are wearing masks for health concerns revolving around the current pandemic and not just as part of a Halloween costume. The answer is yes. In Oklahoma, there is no law that prohibits the carrying of a firearm while wearing a mask, so long as the individual is not committing any illegal acts. This means that carrying a firearm for lawful self-defense purposes while wearing a mask is permitted under Oklahoma law.
We are also frequently asked about carrying a weapon as part of a costume. There is no specific statute that allows prohibited weapons to be carried as part of a Halloween costume. If you are going to carry a firearm on Halloween, make sure you qualify under Constitutional Carry or have a valid handgun license (“CHL”) in your possession, and make sure you do not enter an area where firearms are prohibited, such as a school.
Please avoid the following mistakes on Halloween:
- Don’t carry a firearm when under the age of 21, unless one of the exceptions applies to you; and
- Don’t carry homemade props for costumes that are considered “other offensive weapons,” such as a real chainsaw. A gas chainsaw is bound to be a hit, but leave it in the garden shed.
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.