This edition is devoted to the upcoming day of candy, trick-or-treating, porch and yard decorations, and, of course, costumes! Just when you thought such a day was free from government interference and lawyers — guess again. This article addresses local laws and rules for fun, some of the unique laws and rules in other parts of the country, and some premises liability considerations.
The City of Charleston maintains an ordinance specifically addressing Halloween. The ordinance restricts the acceptable age for trick-or-treat “visitations” to children 16 years or less. The ordinance also provides that trick-or-treating can only occur prior to 10 p.m. on “Halloween night.”
This is not as restrictive as some other cities – Chesapeake, Virginia, has an age limit of “kids 12 and under.” Belleville, Illinois, prohibits trick-or-treating for anyone in the ninth grade or above, and forbids masks for children over the age of 12. So, this means seventh and eighth graders in Belleville can trick or treat, just not with a mask!
Not that we need any more reasons to be grateful to call Daniel Island home, but here are some other unique (and sometimes odd) laws from other parts of the country.
• Alabama: Fake mustaches in church are prohibited, as well as dressing up as a minister, nun, priest, rabbi or other member of the clergy. Needless to say, dressing up as a pregnant nun with a mustache is frowned upon.
• Hollywood, California: Silly string is prohibited only on Halloween.
• Newport News, Virginia: Trick-or-treating after 8 p.m. is prohibited. Nothing says fun like trick-or-treating in broad daylight.
• Rehoboth Beach, Delaware: No trick-or-treating on a Sunday. This year Halloween is on Sunday, so the kids in Rehoboth Beach will need to visit a nearby town for Halloween fun.
• Merryville, Missouri: Women are still prohibited from wearing costumes! Clearly something that needs to be addressed.
Premises liability is one other Halloween consideration for any property owner expecting neighbors and strangers to enter their property. In South Carolina, there are different classifications of persons that enter your property — trespassers, invitees, and licensees. Each of these classifications are owed a different duty by the property owner, with the highest duty owed to invitees and licensees.
On Halloween, if a property owner is expecting trick-or-treaters, then those trick-or-treaters are not trespassers. Therefore, the property owner must exercise reasonable and ordinary care to ensure the property is free from hazards. For example, do not have trick-or-treaters traverse broken stairs to reach the candy bowl. This does not mean you should sit on the curb to hand out candy, but just take reasonable precautions and look around on Halloween afternoon to ensure there are no visible or easily discoverable hazards. Likewise, if you are an adult attempting to relive the “glory years” and hide in your front bushes to scare unsuspecting trick-or-treaters,
then make sure you do it where they don’t jump backward off an elevated plane or into traffic.
We hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween!
Chris Mingledorff and Michael Patterson are attorneys with Mingledorff & Patterson LLC on Daniel Island. For more information, go to mptrial.com.