Teenagers Threatened With Jail if They Trick or Treat

Trick-or-treating is not a crime … or at least it shouldn’t be. Some towns around the country have decided to impose strict age limits on the Halloween ritual with actual laws and ordinances.

It’s a misdemeanor to trick-or-treat after turning 12 in both Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia. A bunch of towns in North Carolina cut kids off by 12 or 13. In Upper Deerfield Township, New Jersey, trick-or-treaters can’t exceed 12 and there’s a strict curfew ending the festivities by 7 p.m. — it’s barely dark by then!

The most egregious example, however, is probably Chesapeake, Virginia where kids 13 and over who trick-or-treat are at risk of facing a $100 fine or up to six months in jail. Why the heck would a town even bother to criminalize a fun and harmless activity for people just entering their teenage years?

Sign the petition: Tell the community of Chesapeake to ditch this ridiculous law.

The Chesapeake police department has indicated that it instituted the rule in order to discourage teenagers from causing mischief like stealing and smashing pumpkins. The thing is that has nothing to do with trick-or-treating. There are already laws dealing with theft and vandalism that police can choose to enforce – depriving 13 and 14 year-olds of the opportunity to celebrate Halloween in a more civil manner of dressing up and collecting candy does nothing to cut down on the trouble.

Hopefully Chesapeake and the other communities like it are at least hosting alternative programming for teenagers to participate in, or they’re just asking for the excluded young folks to find their own forms of diversion.

On a personal level, I still loved Halloween and trick-or-treating as a preteen. I can remember visiting a decent amount of houses where the adults handing out candy would judgmentally ask, “How old are you?” in an effort to try to shame me for having fairly wholesome fun.

I might not have been young enough to be considered “adorable” in my costume, but what’s the real problem so long as the kids are being polite? It remains the adults’ prerogative to not give out candy for whatever reason, it’s not something that needs to be codified by law.

Besides, kids like me inevitably gave up trick-or-treating by high school, not because of any adult disapproval, but because it was no longer “cool” amongst our peers. Passing a law is only going to have the opposite effect on teenagers who want to be rebellious.

Let’s not turn Halloween into an excuse to harass kids who are tall for their age or developmentally disabled or maybe just innocent enough to see the joy in trick-or-treating. It’s not like these kids are carrying ID around anyway.

Take Action!

Although officials in Chesapeake are preemptively claiming that they don’t intend to enforce the law so long as teenagers are creating trouble, that doesn’t help the well intentioned, rule-following kids who are just trying to have fun. Sign this Care2 petition to encourage Chesapeake to not be such scrooges about a tradition that plenty of 13 and 14 year olds still enjoy.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.


Photo Credit: rawpixel


Christine Stewart
Christine S10 hours ago

horrible! have a curfew, if they worry about kids doing pranks at night

Charles K
Charles Kuehn11 hours ago

I think potential for mischief has little to do with it. Human nature, perhaps? Local government types tend to abhor anything over which they have no control. Hence all the gratuitous trick or treating "hours" established, almost always without statutory authority, by nearly every municipality in the nation. Left unchallenged by a compliant citizenry, the next logical step would be an age restriction. Then, at some point, probably sold as a "safety" initiate, trick or treating could be outlawed altogether.

Carole R
Carole R14 hours ago

What a stupid law! Teens love to dress up so if they want to go trick or treating, let them. As long as they are respectful and not threatening. Which most are. I have a 13 year old granddaughter and she looks forward to trick or treating as much as her 7 year old sister.

Janis K
Janis K14 hours ago

Thanks for sharing.

hELEN h16 hours ago


Robert G
Robert G16 hours ago

This is why Amercia has the largest prison population in America. We need a total change in thinking. Freedom is guarenteed in the Bill of Rights, and some in this generation have forgotten what our country stands for, and it is not unnecessary crimes. Let the police do their jobs with the existing laws on the books.

Deborah k
Deborah k16 hours ago

Well, probably about 28 years ago there was a knock at my door and I opened it to find a man on his knees with a pillowcase for a bag collecting candy.. He was laughing and I said," aren't you a little too old to be doing this ?" He was 35, out of work and food, so he was collecting candy to eat. Found out he lived down the street. For many years I hired him to do my grass and snow and when I moved out of Flint, I actually gave him my house. So there are reasons why some older people collect candy. This town is a Scrooge.

Barbara K
Barbara K17 hours ago

I can understand putting a curfew on them for Halloween to stop some of the vandalism that is common, but jail time? That is ridiculous. Just fine them.

Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson17 hours ago

My daughter used to have 3 young neighbor kids crawl up her balcony, break into her house and steal, not toys, but food. It could be, some of these kids go trick or treating to get extra treats or snacks that they do not get at home. There are very poor kids existing in horrendous conditions living in the USA. I don't think giving out a small candy bar to some 12yr old, or so kids, is going to drive people, in a nice warm home, into poverty. Sometimes we forget how desperate things are for some kids. I have known many poor kids whose parents are drug addicts, alcoholics, abusers, or just terrible parents. I have a couple of those kids, whom I know, who come to take showers at my house and I have them eat dinner with us whenever they are here for their showers.

@Celine Russo--People say that about everything--I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Celine Russo
Celine R17 hours ago

... Because there aren't more important matters out there?