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Legal or Spooky? Understanding Halloween Costume Masks in Public Spaces

Every Halloween, people like to walk the streets in search of candy and parties, all while garbed in scary, concealing outfits. With how intricate costumes have been lately, you might know everyone in your neighborhood, but not be able to guess who is behind the ghoul mask at your party. But, wait – is that allowed? You’ve probably heard that wearing a mask in public is a crime. So, is everyone who participates in a Halloween party in public or on the way to one breaking the law?

New York’s Laws on Being Masked in Public

The language of the law in New York makes it pretty clear that wearing a Halloween mask in public is not a crime in and of itself. That is to say, you should feel free to don that mask and hide your face, as long as you are there for good fun.

According to the law (PEN § 240.35 Loitering), it is illegal to disguise yourself while loitering or unlawfully congregating in a public place. But, there is a clear exception: It is not unlawful to wear a mask in public if you are doing it for a party or a form of entertainment, such as a Halloween party.

Yet, there is another wrinkle to the law. The exception only applies if you were given permission by a police officer or “appropriate authorities” first.

For example, if you are attending a public Halloween party hosted by city hall, then you’re free to wear your mask for the festivities. In this situation, you can assume that members of city hall have taken the right steps to get legal permission to host the party. You can also wear a Halloween mask while at a friend’s Halloween party in their own home because they, as the homeowner or renter, are provided the right to hold private parties with their own set of rules, i.e. masks are allowed.

What you cannot do is congregate in a public place like city hall for a masked Halloween party if the proprietor of that location did not give you permission first. You also cannot loiter with a Halloween mask when there is no clear purpose for wearing it. For example, if you are standing on the street corner near your friend’s Halloween party and wearing a mask, then you could be charged with criminal loitering, especially if you are asked to leave or remove the mask by an officer but don’t.

Don’t Be a Joker – Know Your Rights!

With the popularity of DC’s Joker movie this month, it is expected that scary masks are going to be abundant this Halloween. But don’t clown around with your rights! If you get into legal trouble for any reason this Halloween – be it loitering, drug crimes, a DWI, underage drinking, or something else entirely – seek the counsel of a professional criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

At O’Brien & Eggleston PLLC , our Albany criminal defense attorneys is standing by to come to your aid when you’re put in handcuffs. Use your phone call to dial 518-391-2369. We keep a flexible schedule to answer the phone at most any hour of any day, like after a Halloween party. Initial consultations are totally free, too!

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