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Avoid jail on Halloween: Scale down your scare tactics

Halloween is supposed to be scary, and pranks are the norm. However, you need to know where to draw the line before you end up in a pair of handcuffs.

Even if you aren't inclined to make any mischief this holiday season, make sure that you talk to your teenage children about what they may see as essentially harmless fun. It could end up in a trip to court -- or worse.

Here are some tips about how to stay out of serious legal trouble on Halloween:

1. Reconsider the clown outfit.

In 2016, several states and many local jurisdictions put a moratorium on people dressing as clowns to scare people. The "scary clown" craze hasn't faded in a lot of areas, so don't risk jail time for a joke.

2. Don't end up assaulting someone.

Most people don't realize that you don't have to actually touch someone to be guilty of assault. Assault is the act of threatening someone in a way that makes them believe you intend to actually hurt them. In other words, forget jumping out of the hedges while revving up a chainsaw -- just in case a child takes you seriously and his or her parents decide to press charges.

3. Skip breaking and entering.

Daring your cousin to go inside the creepy old house that's supposed to be haunted could be dangerous -- and illegal. If the house is in disrepair, anyone sneaking in could get hurt falling through a rotten floor board. You can also end up being arrested for breaking and entering. The same goes for sneaking into the closed cemetery at night. Stick to places that are open to the public.

4. Don't damage anyone's property.

Tossing toilet paper in the trees around your football team's coach may have sounded fun -- but it isn't so fun for the coach to clean up. Egging cars and houses damages their finish, and smashing pumpkins may be relatively minor. However, it's still vandalism, and you can still end up in jail if you're caught. With the number of people who own high-def security cameras outside their homes these days, don't risk it.

If you are charged with any sort of property crime, there can be far-reaching consequences if you're convicted, so retain a criminal lawyer promptly.

Source: FindLaw, "Halloween Pranks That Will Get You Arrested," Deanne Katz, Esq., accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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