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It’s Halloween. Unfortunately, we cannot forget about the COVID-19 pandemic and just spend time trick-or-treating. Georgia hasn’t canceled Halloween, though many communities have decided to restrict festivities. If your neighborhood plans to participate in the fall classic this year, let’s discuss the possible mischief you could face before you set out the jack-o-lantern…

Defending Against Halloween Mischief

What if the neighborhood ghouls and goblins are outside your home creating mischief but not trying to enter? If a trespass has occurred on your property rather than inside your home, remember you may use force or threats of force—but not deadly force—to stop it. You cannot use deadly force against someone who has merely trespassed on your property! You may be legally justified in using force against a person found trespassing on your land to remove him, but only so long as the use of force is accompanied with a reasonable belief that it is necessary to terminate the trespass.

What if you’re stuck at home handing out candy, and ghouls want to give tricks instead of receiving treats? How can you protect yourself in your home?

Recall the Castle Doctrine: if you are the intended victim of unlawful force or deadly force inside your dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business, these places are your “castle,” and Georgia law allows you to protect yourself.

In these “Castle Doctrine” circumstances, the law will justify the use of force or deadly force in your habitation based upon your reasonable belief it was necessary to defend anyone in your habitation from physical violence; to prevent unlawful and forcible entry to your habitation; and to prevent felonies from being committed inside your habitation.

Carrying a Firearm

Next, let’s talk about costumes and carrying. If you are out in the holiday crowd, you may decide to carry—concealed or openly—to protect family and friends as they trick-or-treat, or as part of your costume. Remember, a Weapons Carry License (“WCL”) is needed to carry a “weapon” in public: this includes a handgun or a knife with a blade longer than 12 inches.

You do not need a WCL for a long gun (rifle or shotgun) but must be eligible by law to possess it (no felony convictions, misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, or felony first offender probation, and of course be of legal age) in order to carry in public. Pepper spray and mace can be carried without a WCL, but are still considered deadly force when used, so be careful as you carry.

Being able to possess these weapons, however, does not mean carrying them as part of a costume is a good idea! Embrace the “spirit” of the holiday, but don’t carry something that may put your liberty at risk, and never carry in a way that violates firearms safety rules. Of course, if carried for self-protection, carry in the fashion you are most comfortable and accustomed to, but keep in mind the nature of the holiday (and the times we live in) may make folks wary of firearms, especially as part of a costume.

Make the right choice to protect yourself, but please observe firearms safety rules, state carry laws, and be attentive to individuals who attempt to keep social distance (yes, even while trick-or-treating).

Carrying While Wearing a Mask

Many have asked if they can carry their firearm while wearing a mask, either for protection against COVID-19 or as part of a Halloween costume. Ordinarily, Georgia law prohibits wearing a mask in public; however, Governor Kemp has suspended enforcement of the state law prohibiting masks in public due to our current state of emergency. Further, according to the law, you can wear masks on holidays anyway.

Finally, remember that there is no law that prohibits the carry of a firearm while wearing a mask. Follow social distancing guidelines, carry to protect yourself, and enjoy All Hallows’ Eve!

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.