Costumes and pranks on Halloween – what is allowed and who is liable for damage?

Horror clown and police uniform: Which pranks and costumes are not allowed on Halloween.

Halloween is now an established festival in Germany. “Trick or treat” is the motto on October 31st for children and adults. However, if you would rather avoid legal consequences, you should follow a few rules.

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Halloween-Pranks and costumes can quickly exceed legal limits. For example, instead of confetti, a firecracker is put in the mailbox and it explodes. The question then arises: Who is liable? Parents are well advised to educate their underage children about Halloween pranks and their consequences. From the age of 14, they can also face criminal consequences if they go overboard in a prank.

Costumes for adults: police uniform no, doctor’s coat yes

But adults who go to a Halloween party should also inform themselves. As police officer You are not allowed to dress up in your original uniform. This is not permitted to avoid confusion with real police officers. However, a doctor’s or lab coat can be worn safely.

About the expert

Ingo Lenßen has been working as a self-employed lawyer on Lake Constance since 1990. His advice focuses on criminal law and inheritance law. Lenßen has been present on the screen with his TV shows for many years. In his program “Lenßen live – The Law-Talk-Hour” (SAT.1 Gold) he helps those affected live to solve their legal problems. Now professional legal advice is also available

Advice book “Lenßen helps!”

All kinds of recognizable toy guns,

Plastic axes
or even rubber daggers can complement your Halloween outfit. These are (joke) articles that do not appear to pose any danger.

Penalties threaten: It is better to leave your apparent weapon at home

Things are different when carrying a so-called “appearance weapon”. This refers to weapons that look deceptively similar to real weapons: i.e. all variants of imitation weapons, as well as firearms that have been rendered unusable or antique exhibits. These are prohibited under the weapons law. Anyone traveling with a “pretend weapon” risks criminal charges and a hefty fine.

Extreme case: The “horror clown”

A scary “horror clown” is allowed to be on the street as long as he doesn’t attack passers-by or otherwise become conspicuous. However, anyone who dresses up as a “horror clown” or even threatens them with a weapon with the intention of scaring unsuspecting passers-by must expect criminal consequences. It may be enough to accept the startle reaction with approval.

In individual cases, the perpetrator may face charges of coercion or Mayhem (for example if the victim suffers a shock or is injured while running away) and thus a fine. “Horror clowns” who carry a weapon with them during their crime may even risk a prison sentence.

Child protection on Halloween

It is up to the parents when and for how long they let their children go off alone. If your child is independent, reliable and sensible, a tour of the neighborhood is appropriate for him
to collect, to be able to do it alone on Halloween. Nevertheless, as parents, you should accompany your children for as long as possible or make a clear agreement with older children about how long they can be out and where they can go. If you violate your duty of supervision, you may be liable for (property) damage caused by your underage offspring on Halloween night.

Harmless pranks are allowed. Smear the doorknob with toothpaste,

Throwing it in the mailbox or a prank on the doorbell works. Turning the car into a “mummy” with toilet paper, as long as the vehicle is not damaged in the process, is also not prohibited.

But there are also pranks that come with significant legal consequences: throwing paint bombs and eggs at house walls, doors and cars; raiding flower boxes or trampling or pulling out garden plants; putting lit fireworks in mailboxes; Tip over garbage cans and thereby pollute the street or lift out manhole covers. You should avoid such pranks if possible.

If a limit is exceeded, there is a risk of civil liability issues (e.g. compensation) and, if a criminal offense is committed, criminal consequences (e.g. damage to property or arson).

Are parents liable for their children’s pranks?

Parents are not generally liable for damage caused by their children. But if they have violated their duty of supervision, they are liable for the damage that a child causes to a third party (§§ 1631, 832 BGB). Parents must supervise their minor children depending on their age. If the offspring eats something, it always depends on the circumstances of the individual case as to whether parents have to pay for the resulting damage.

When are children responsible for themselves?

Whether a child is liable for the (property) damage they have caused depends on the child’s age:

  • Children under the age of seven are generally not liable at all (Section 828 Paragraph 1 BGB);
  • Children over the age of seven and under 18 are always liable if they have the necessary “capacity for insight”. However, this must be checked in each individual case.

Please note: If a child has no assets, he or she is still liable. Because a judgment can also be enforced later and for 30 years. The injured party can therefore wait until the former child earns money themselves.

In order to avoid damage and liability issues on Halloween, you as a parent should educate your children specifically and show them the line between permitted fun and what is forbidden.

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