Trick or treating is one of the biggest joys of the fall season for most kids; they will gladly go to great lengths for free candy. And although Halloween is celebrated for it’s spooky atmosphere, a Virginia law regarding whether or not big kids can trick or treat is downright horrifying.
In several counties of Virginia, there are strict trick or treating laws. And when I say “strict”, I mean CRAZY. Several counties in the state of Virginia -including Norfolk, Newport News, York, & Suffolk counties- deem trick or treating to be an activity that should be heavily supervised and subsequently punished by legal authorities.
It is against the law for anyone over the age of 12 to trick-or-treat.
Wait… what? Seriously??
According to Section 46:8 of the Chesapeake City Code, anyone over the age of 12 years of age that is “caught” trick or treating risks the possibility of both fines and/or jail.
Yes, you read that correctly: JAIL TIME. The details of the punishment are as follows:
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.
So if your 13 year old still loves to trick-or-treat, he/she is apparently breaking the law. And not only that, but the illegal act is considered so serious that your child could possibly face a fine and incarceration.
And lest you think the law is aimed solely at the over-12 crowd, younger trick or treaters are also in the line of legal fire. Children under 12 are permitted to trick or treat, BUT not anytime after 8pm, and only if accompanied by an adult. The failure to maintain both of these laws could result in a child being 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.
Yes, you read that correctly.
A child younger than 12 years of age is also at risk for being fined and/or imprisoned… for trick or treating incorrectly.
Halloween is a holiday that is specifically geared towards children. The selecting of costumes and the joy of dashing from house to house for free candy is the highlight of the year for some kids. This law not only casts a shadow of fear & trepidation over it for young children of these locales. It excludes anyone over the age of 12 from participating in it entirely.
Chesapeake’s own town website assures citizens that the regulations are primarily to ensure that trick or treating proceeds in a safe, fun manner; they are not “actively seeking out violations or the time limit.”
Maybe so, but I can tell you that if this law had existed when I was child, I would have panicked at the remote possibility that I’d either get “caught” if I was still trick or treating at 8:01pm. That’s an unnecessary stress placed on a young child’s shoulders on Halloween.
They try to soften the reality of the restrictions; here’s an example provided by the town on what will and won’t deserve penalties:
For example, a thirteen year old safely trick or treating with a younger sibling is not going to have any issues. That same child taking pumpkins from porches and smashing them in the street more likely will.
I’m all for reprimanding kids smashing pumpkins- if I have to suffer through the act of carving pumpkins with my kids, I’m going to be pissed at any pumpkin-smasher. But what about the 13 year old that doesn’t have a a younger sibling, but wants to trick or treat? Tough luck.
Should these counties have the right to determine how old is “too old” for trick or treating? In my opinion, absolutely not!
Older kids like trick or treating, too
My oldest two kids are 16 and 14 years old, and still genuinely love trick or treating. In fact, most kids their age in our neighborhood still do.
They wear costumes, and are both excited & respectful as they go about enjoying Halloween.
And, frankly, I’d rather my teens trick or treat than do some other things they could be doing.
We all know how fast childhood flies by. Why force kids to grow up even faster? If teenagers wish to savor this aspect of childhood fun, we should encourage them to do so rather than impose threats of punishment upon them. If anyone over the age of 12 comes to my door on Halloween, they are welcome. I’d happier knowing those very kids aren’t off getting into far worse mischief.
And let’s face it; even as adults, we still love free candy. Part of the fun of taking your own kids trick or treating is getting to enjoy their candy (whether they know it or not!). Ditching these laws allows kids to relish both their Halloween & their childhood joy.