Hocus Pocus Sanderson sisters

If you search the term “trick or treat” in Hein Online’s Law Journal Library, you get 13,571 results-- apparently, it is a very popular phrase to use in law review article titles.

In case you were wondering about actual laws regarding trick or treating, though, it requires some deeper digging. A search for “trick or treat” and “Halloween” yields 86 articles. Legal scholars have opined on city ordinances related to trick or treating, the constitutional implications of asking for candy at strangers’ doors, and possible criminal activity related to this Halloween tradition.

For a particularly good read on Halloween-related case law (including a ruling by a court that a house was haunted), check out Daniel B. Moar’s “Case Law from the Crypt: The Law of Halloween,” 83 N.Y. St. B. A. J. 10 (Oct. 2011).

If your queries are more practical than intellectual, look no further than these interesting news articles from Virginia. This year, Virginia city ordinances have come into the public eye via several articles as well as a blog post by the ACLU, claiming that some of these city ordinances are too strict-- i.e., trick or treaters over the age of 12 face fines of up to $100 and possible jail time in Chesapeake, Virginia. (Lock up your 13-year-old candy lovers!)

Don’t worry, Wisconsinites-- the only law on the books regarding Halloween is Wis. Stat. 941.235, which states that “whoever places objects, drugs, or other substances in candy or other liquid or solid edibles with the intent to cause bodily harm to another person is guilty of a Class I felony.” (See State v. Timm, 163 Wis. 2d 894 (1991)).

(There is, however, a hilarious appellate case wherein the plaintiff appealed the trial court’s decision because his attorney found out that the jury had been given leftover Halloween candy by the court. The appellate court found that this did not constitute a bias. See State v. Green, 2013 Wisc. App. LEXIS 908 (2013).)

Happy Halloween, and safe trick-or-treating-- if you dare to go out!

Submitted by Emma E Babler on October 24, 2018

This article appears in the categories: Law Library