May I refuse to give candy to trick-or-treaters?
There is no legal obligation to give candy to trick-or-treating kids. However, if you leave your lights on or have decorations up, trick-or-treaters will inevitably come to your door. So if you don't have candy, run out of candy, or refuse to give candy to certain trick-or-treaters, you're taking a risk that they'll play a trick on you.
While most trick-or-treaters are levying empty threats in hopes of scoring some bite-sized candies, some may come prepared and ready to follow through with a trick. The trick may or may not be legal, but most of the time it involves some form of petty vandalism, like smashing a pumpkin or throwing eggs or rolls of toilet paper (unlikely after 2020). There's no legal Halloween or magical exception to vandalism in the law. There's also very little you can do to stop it, other than calling law enforcement.
Some communities may impose time or age restrictions for trick-or-treaters, and it is appropriate to follow those. But again, if trick-or-treaters come to your door, it may be up to you to decide whether you want to take the risk of getting tricked. When you run out of candy, or if you are not participating, it may be a good idea to put up a clear, easily visible sign at the front of your property announcing that you are out of candy.
What are the rules or laws for trick-or-treating?
Every community has its own laws and rules when it comes to Halloween trick-or-treating. Typically, though, trick-or-treating starts at, or just before, sunset, and typically is over by late evening. Most cities or communities will publicly announce start and end times for trick-or-treating. However, it's not uncommon for it to continue past the stated hours.
Some cities ban trick-or-treaters above a certain age, and many cities and communities have specific hours or impose curfews. Some communities impose rules that limit decorations, lights, and noise.
If you have questions about your local laws or community rules, ask a lawyer so you don't have to worry about the local authorities haunting you.
Should I go with my children on Halloween?
The best way to keep children safe on Halloween is to send them trick-or-treating in a group with an adult or two. This ensures that your children are supervised and a responsible adult is there in case something goes wrong. Depending on their age, kids may be able to go up to a door on their own while an adult waits on the sidewalk. Just keep in mind that costumes can make identifying children more challenging, particularly when it gets crowded, so be sure you know who is in your group.
If you're doing the chaperoning for a small group of kids, you may want to consider having a distinctive marker for your group, such as a colorful clip-on light or even just a colorful ribbon bracelet or armband.
At what age may kids go trick-or-treating by themselves?
It's always safer when children are accompanied by an adult while trick-or-treating. Parents need to exercise their own judgment based on their community, their child's maturity level, and how independent they are. If your older child is prone to mischief, an accompanying adult will likely deter them from the typical Halloween mischief.
Older children that are responsible and independent enough may be able to go on their own in a neighborhood they know well with a group of other children. Parents may want to make sure their kids have a mobile phone, don't go to unfamiliar neighborhoods, and check in regularly.
How much can I scare trick-or-treaters who come to my door?
This is a personal choice. You have the freedom to scare trick-or-treaters as much as you want, but if you injure anyone, you may be held responsible legally. If you go way over the line, it may even be a criminal offense.
Generally, you cannot touch trick-or-treaters. You will also want to choose your location carefully with safety in mind. For example, if your front door is at the top of a staircase, you don't want kids to fall down your stairs from fright. Also, make sure your pranks and scares do not cross the line to where a child's parent could accuse you of harassment or traumatizing their child. It's a good idea to try to keep your Halloween pranks family-friendly. After all, you will be entertaining children, not adults.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.