Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Tampa Man Arrested for Wearing Clown Mask in Public

Who knew that wearing a clown mask in public could get you arrested in Florida?

That's what happened to a Tampa man who was charged with a somewhat arcane offense of wearing a mask or hood on a public road over the age of 16, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Deputies saw the 18-year-old Matthew Lopez wearing a clown mask and bright red-and-orange wig as he walked down a street with two other people according to the arrest affidavit.

It is not clear why Lopez was wearing the mask, officials said.

The charge is based on a 1951 law designed to combat the Ku Klux Klan, part of the section of Florida's statutes dealing with criminal anarchy and treason.

Deputies followed Lopez and the two others as they walked down the street. When the deputy tried to make contact to question the group, Lopez and another person ran away, according to the arrest report.

The group was later located and Lopez was charged with wearing a mask on a public road and resisting arrest without violence.

A juvenile, who has not been named, also was charged with a misdemeanor.

Both are misdemeanor charges. Lopez has been released from Hillsborough County Jail on $750 bond.

Authorities said this incident is not the first time that someone has been charged for wearing a mask in public.

In 2008, a man was arrested for wearing Batman mask in public. But a judge dismissed the charges and ordered police to return his custom made cowl.

Any disguise in public is illegal, authorities said. Even on Halloween, adults aren't allowed to enter any businesses or stores with their faces covered.