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Halloween is upon us, but this year we must also be cognizant of how the COVID-19 pandemic can affect us and our children.

Many neighborhoods have canceled their normal trick-or-treating festivities because of the virus. Some families who still want to participate in the custom of handing out candy have decided to leave a basket of goodies on their front porch.

Believe it or not, October is also Crime Prevention Month. While those two things may not seem to go hand in hand, they do highlight the fact that Halloween can be a time for criminals to target your home and loved ones.

Wearing a Mask While Carrying

The first area of concern for concealed carry license holders on Halloween is whether they can wear a mask as part of their Halloween costume or for safety while carrying their firearm. In Illinois it is ordinarily a Class 4 Felony to wear a mask while carrying a gun. 720 ILCS24-1(a)(9).

However, pursuant to Gov. Pritzker’s executive order entered on April 30 requiring face coverings to be worn in public, there were concerns about concealed carry licensees carrying while wearing a face covering.

In response to the executive order, the Illinois state police stated, “The law was not intended to negatively impact permit holders under the Illinois Concealed Carry Act while legally carrying firearms.” Almost all local police departments and prosecutors have agreed not to charge concealed carry licensees who are wearing face coverings as long as they are not violating any other laws. This exception is intended to allow people to comply with the mandate for face covering in public. I would not expect that it would be applied to Halloween masks.

Defending Against Halloween Mischief

Unfortunately, mischief and vandalism frequently accompany Halloween. How can you minimize the risk of becoming a victim of some type mischief or vandalism this year? Here are some suggestions to keep you and your property safe:

  1. Leave on bright exterior lights;
  2. Park your car in the garage;
  3. Keep your pets indoors;
  4. If you will not be participating in trick-or-treating activities, make a sign wishing everyone a safe Halloween, but indicate that you will not be handing out treats (you can indicate that it’s because of the COVID-19 or any other reason); and finally
  5. Keep your cell phone handy in case you either are, or believe you are going to become, the victim of a crime.

Finally, most importantly, brush up on your laws regarding self-defense and the use of deadly force. Remember, deadly force generally may not be used in Illinois to protect only property.

Although Illinois recognizes the Castle Doctrine, you must follow the law as stated in 720 ILCS 5/7-2, Use of Force in Defense of Dwelling, which limits the use of deadly force.

“A person… is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:

  1. The entry is made or attempted  in a violent, riotous, tumultuous manner, and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent an assault  upon , or offer of personal violence to, him or another then in the dwelling, or
  2. He reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.”

If it is just your property being harmed, call the police immediately. Whether it is a trespasser who will not leave or someone vandalizing your Halloween decorations, unless you reasonably believe that the criminal activity can cause you or anyone in your home death or great bodily harm, you cannot defend yourself with deadly force.

However, you are allowed to use non-deadly force to expel a trespasser or protect your property. In most instances, locking your door, remaining in your home, and calling the police is the appropriate way to handle the situation. Please be careful this Halloween, and let’s try and make it safe and fun for everyone.

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.