Local Laws Say Trick-Or-Treaters Over Age 12 Could Be Sent to Jail

Many towns in the Commonwealth of Virginia have banned trick-or-treating for anyone over the age of 12. This means that 13-year-olds could potentially be fined or even jailed for taking part in the most traditional of Halloween festivities.

Additionally, anyone trick-or-treating after 8 p.m. in most towns and cities across the Old Dominion are probably breaking the law.

An NBC affiliate in Atlanta saw fit to highlight Virginia’s relatively repressive approach to All Hallows’ Eve in a recent story. What follows is just a small sampling of some local laws prohibiting the free exercise of candy-gathering in the Mother of All States.

Chesapeake’s city code notes:

Sec. 46-8. – Trick-or-treat activities.

(a) If any person over the age of 12 years shall engage in the activity commonly known as “trick or treat” or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25.00 nor more than $100.00 or by confinement in jail for not more than six months or both.

(b) If any person shall engage in the activity commonly known as “trick or treat” or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever after 8:00 p.m., he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $10.00 nor more than $100.00 or by confinement in jail for not more than 30 days or both.

According to HRScene.com, local Chesapeake officials have decided that trick-or-treating hours need to be further limited–kids will only be able to do from 6 p.m. to 8.p.m this year. The clampdown isn’t exactly the point, however, as the site also notes that Chesapeake police “will focus on making sure the evening is safe for everyone, not actively seeking out violations of the time or age limits.”

Newport News has a similar law:

Sec. 28-5. – Prohibited trick-or-treat activities.
(a) If any person beyond the seventh grade of school or over twelve (12) years of age shall engage in the activity commonly known as “trick or treat” or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever, such person shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. Nothing herein shall be construed as prohibiting any parent, guardian or other responsible person having lawfully in his custody a child twelve (12) years old or younger, from accompanying such child who is playing “trick or treat” for the purpose of caring for, looking after or protecting such child. However, no accompanying parent or guardian shall wear a mask of any type.

(b) If any person shall engage in playing “trick or treat” or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever after 8:00 p.m., such person shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Here, officials have limited things to a slightly more open-to-interpretation time-frame: appropriately-aged trick-or-treaters can load up on sweets from “dusk” until 8 p.m. City officials would like to “remind” residents, however, that they mean business about the age limits.

Norfolk also makes the list:

(a) If any person over the age of twelve (12) years shall engage in the activity commonly known as “trick or treat” or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever, he shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. Nothing herein shall be construed as prohibiting any parent, guardian or other responsible person, having lawfully in his custody a child twelve (12) years old or younger, from accompanying such child who is playing “trick or treat” for the purpose of caring for, looking after or protecting such child.

(b) If any person shall engage in the activity commonly known as “trick or treat” or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever after 8:00 p.m., he shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Adults are allowed to walk with children, however, as long as they are only there “for the purpose of caring for, looking after or protecting the child,” according to HRScene. One caveat: such adults must have legal custody of the costumed candy-getter they’re accompanying.

In all, at least eight municipalities across Virginia have restricted their trick-or-treating ages and times in the above fashions. Notably, all such laws were passed decades ago and any actual sanction would likely be entirely up to any given officer’s discretion–but these laws do remain on the books.

And, at least one county isn’t on board with their own antiquated prohibitions against the prospect of receiving free fun-size chocolate bars (or full-size bars in the richer neighborhoods).

In response to a question from a constituent on Facebook, the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office likely calmed some nerves by noting, “No one is going to jail in York County for trick or treating. We will post some information as we get closer to Halloween.”

[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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