Virginia Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

Hi. Ed Riley, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for Virginia. Can I trick-or-treat and carry my firearm? Here are a few tips on how to be ready and stay safe for Halloween.

Tip one: Don’t be startled if trick-or-treaters come onto your property and/or knock on your door this Halloween. As we all know, the Halloween celebration often involves trick-or-treaters walking from door to door through the neighborhood, knocking at each door along the way. So be ready and understand that this will likely happen in your community, and be mindful how you are carrying and/or handling your firearm. Be extra careful with your firearm and make sure that it is not being displayed in a frightening manner towards people who may enter your property and/or knock on your door.

Tip two: Can you use a firearm as part of your costume? Well, generally speaking, yes, you can. It is lawful to either open carry a firearm and/or carry a concealed handgun if you possess a concealed handgun permit, so long as you are not attending an event at a location where firearms are forbidden, such as a school or certain government properties.

Tip three: Can you carry your firearm while you are trick-or-treating with the kids? The short answer is, yes, you can. If you have a concealed handgun permit, then you can carry your handgun concealed as you normally would. If you don’t have a concealed handgun permit, or you want to carry a firearm that is not a handgun, then you can open carry. Just make sure you are truly open carrying. Regardless of whether you are carrying open or concealed, you need to be aware of your location. For example, let’s say you have an event at the school, and they are trick-or-treating in the yard of the school or inside of the school itself. You cannot have your firearm in the school building.

Tip four involves the holiday costume, what you are wearing for this event. Virginia does not have any particular statutes that deal directly with Halloween. However, it’s a good idea to be aware of Virginia Code Section 18.2-422, which makes it unlawful for any person over 16 years of age to wear a mask with the intent to conceal his or her identity in public or on private property without written consent from the owner. This section does not apply to persons wearing traditional holiday costumes or those engaged in a theatrical production or masquerade ball.

Tip five involves how to deal with the trick of trick-or-treating, meaning the prankster or those involved in juvenile mischief. You have seen it. It happens every year. Juveniles and/or young adults egg a house, throw toilet paper over a yard, smash a pumpkin, or something along those lines. Acts such as these are clearly pranks, but they can also trigger violations of the trespassing and/or destruction of property laws. You cannot use deadly force to protect against, or in response to, these activities. You also cannot fire a warning shot. You should not even display your firearm because that may very well be a criminal violation. What you have to do in this situation is to call the police and let them handle it. Let them do their job. Otherwise, you run the risk of being charged with some type of criminal offense.

Happy Halloween.

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