(The Center Square) – Smashing pumpkins, toilet papering trees on other people’s property, or other Halloween tricks could lead to criminal charges in Illinois.
Chicago criminal defense attorney Andrew Weisberg said that, by law, there could be charges brought in certain circumstances. Chicago police won’t bother with some types of petty property damage, but law enforcement in the suburbs and smaller communities could theoretically charge a Halloween prankster with a misdemeanor, he said.
“If someone made a complaint that someone smashed their pumpkin, it could be criminal property damage, but a pumpkin doesn’t cost very much,” Weisberg said. Law enforcement is unlikely to want to bother with it, he said.
Back when Weisberg was a kid out trick or treating, one of his buddies went into someone’s house and took a whole basket of candy that was set out for kids to help themselves. The homeowners called the police, he recalls.
Under Illinois law, toilet papering trees or egging cars is disorderly conduct, but the homeowner is unlikely to catch the culprits and the police are unlikely to get involved. Whether the police charge the pranksters or not is really up to the officer on the scene, Weisberg said.
“Any action could be made criminal if police or prosecutors want to charge it. I don’t see it happening very often,” he said.
Jumping out and scaring a stranger could also be seen as a crime in some instances.
“Assault is where you don’t strike someone but you place them in apprehension of an imminent battery. They believe they are about to be struck,” Weisberg said. Getting charged with a simple assault for scaring someone “seems like a stretch to me, legally,” he said.
Say the person has a heart attack when someone jumps out of the bushes and frightens them, or they fall and hit their head when someone tries to scare them.
“If you came upon someone in the middle of the night and you scared the daylights out of them and they suffered some event, I suppose there could be a problem there – if something terrible happened,” Weisberg said. “It’s a theoretical possibility, but I have never heard of anything like that happening.”
On Halloween, alcohol, not pranks, is the thing that is likely to get kids and adults in trouble, Weisberg said.
“Drinking leads to Halloween fights and property damage, particularly when the weather is nice,” he said.