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Before you plan an elaborate Halloween costume and set out the carved pumpkin on your doorstep, let’s discuss the potential impact of COVID-19 on our festivities and then focus on the mischief and dangers that lurk around the Halloween season.

Will COVID-19 Impact Halloween?

Halloween celebrations are on in Ohio. Governor DeWine issued some COVID-19-related protocols for the spooky activities through his “Responsible Restart Ohio” program, which states: “Decisions on whether to participate should be made by local communities, individuals, and parents/guardians” along with a lengthy list of guidelines outlined by the Ohio Board of Health, but stopped short of canceling trick-or-treating.” See link.

Defending Against Criminal Mischief

Let’s move on to another safety-related issue: Halloween protection against criminal mischief. There are already heightened concerns over the protection of our homes, personal property, and ourselves during the mischievous days surrounding “All Hallows Eve” and as the years pass, it seems as though the “tricks” often overlooked as youthful hijinks have morphed into a more sinister, and sometimes dangerous activity. Couple this trend with the proliferation of individuals and mobs currently bent on creating what can only be described as chaos in the streets, and we have a recipe for disaster.

Remember, deadly force is never an option when used solely to protect property. If your house is being vandalized, do not use your weapon to stop the individual(s) who are trespassing on your property. Destroyed pumpkins can be replaced, and toilet paper and paint can be removed. Basic physical force can be used, but the use of deadly force to protect only property is not permitted by Ohio law. Not even the Castle Doctrine, which guarantees the homeowner added protections when resorting to deadly force self-defense, can help in such cases, without a direct threat against the person or persons in the home. In the trying times of today, arson and other serious acts of violence against citizens is not unheard of, and those scenarios surpass the typical acts against property we usually see on Halloween and may allow for heightened use of force to repel and protect life. Such incidents would be highly scrutinized and very case-specific.

Masks and Carrying a Firearm

Another issue which arises around Halloween is the use of masks and face coverings while carrying a firearm. Obviously, during Halloween many costumes utilize masks as a component, and this year many people will be wearing a mask for safety. Thankfully, just like with the medical and protective masks we have all had to use this year, there is nothing in Ohio law that infringes upon your right to carry a firearm and wear a mask even as part of a costume during the Halloween season.

Non-Lethal Weapons of Self-Defense

Furthermore, the carry of non-lethal defense items such as mace, pepper spray, and taser-like devices is not prohibited, masked or otherwise, neither are there any regulations against simulated costume accoutrements that mimic other normally illegal carry items like “brass knuckles.”

However, if your costume calls for an illegal carry item please do not think that if it is a part of your costume it falls outside the rule of law. This is not the case. Intent is not the issue in determining whether you are carrying an illegal weapon. Stick with the manufactured costume replicas. Do not conceal large blades like real swords as part of a costume or carry otherwise legal items in an illegal fashion.

As always, please remember that if you are attending a Halloween event, Ohio law allows for private businesses and property owners to determine whether or not weapons are allowed on their property. These decisions have the force of law behind them in our state, so heed the signage and requests. Finally, if you are going to carry your weapon, do not consume alcohol! Not only is it bad gun safety to combine the two, it is also illegal in Ohio.

Be safe and have a great 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.