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This year, it is likely that Halloween will look different compared to previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many places have canceled yearly Halloween events or limited activities. Before you plan an elaborate Halloween costume and set out the carved pumpkin on your doorstep, let’s discuss the mischief and dangers that lurk around the Halloween season.

Masks, Costumes, and Weapons During COVID-19

There are several things to consider when deciding on what costume you will wear. Further, you must decide for yourself what precautions to take (if any) this year regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

One common precaution many will take is wearing a mask to help stop the spread of the virus. Therefore, it is important to know that in North Carolina it is perfectly legal to carry a concealed handgun with a permit or openly carry while wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19. Further, it is also permissible to wear a Halloween mask and carry. So, protecting yourself against COVID-19 should in no way interfere with you protecting yourself and your family this Halloween.

Additionally, there are considerations regarding weapons as part of your costume. In North Carolina, you may not carry a concealed handgun without a proper concealed handgun permit. Further, you may not concealed carry any other deadly weapon even with a permit.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269 specifically prohibits concealed carry of any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slung shot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, shuriken, stun gun “or other deadly weapon of like kind, except when the person is on the person’s own premises.” This means that you may not conceal any of those weapons whether it is part of a costume or for personal protection.

You may openly carry weapons as part of a costume depending on the weapon and the location. Some parties or festivals may openly ban concealed or open carry of firearms. If the festival is at a school, you may not carry a firearm concealed or open. If the party or festival charges admission and/or sells alcohol, you may not carry any firearm unless you have a concealed handgun permit. If you are carrying a knife as part of your costume, you must be aware of local ordinances.

Defending Against Halloween Mischief

It is not uncommon for the neighborhood ghosts and goblins to get into a little mischief at this time of year. Common pranks include toilet paper in trees or eggs thrown at homes, not to mention the destruction of Halloween decorations and smashed pumpkins.

What can you do in those situations? In North Carolina, you may not use deadly force to protect property. That means even if someone goes beyond just littering and is damaging your property, you are still prohibited from using deadly force, including pointing or threatening with a weapon to make them stop. You may however use reasonable non-deadly force to protect property. Reasonable force would certainly depend on the age, size, and number of vandals.

But what if the situation becomes more dangerous than just trespassers or even damage to property? You have additional protections in your home (and your car and workplace). In North Carolina, the Castle Doctrine provides that if you are in your home and someone is in the process of forcibly breaking or entering your home or has already forcibly broken and entered and you use deadly force, you are presumed to have had a reasonable belief that you were facing imminent death or serious bodily harm. Further, a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s home, motor vehicle, or workplace is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

Hopefully, none of those situations will arise, but if someone does enter your yard on Halloween and is littering or vandalizing, the safest action is to call 911 rather than confront them.

These are a few things to consider when planning for Halloween. 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.