Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Can Police Arrest Someone for Wearing a Creepy Clown Mask?

Police Chief Tim Lentz, of the Covington, LA police department issued a warning to the clowns in his town to stop clowning around. This warning was in response to a disturbing new trend of creepy clowns just showing up and creeping people out in public places.

At present, creepy clowns sightings have been reported in 28 states. Due to the large response the clowns have received on social media, it is likely the trend will continue. Clowns have been advised that the police are not clowning around.

Can the Police Really Arrest Someone for Being a Creepy Clown?

As a matter of fact, especially in a state like Louisiana, yes, an officer can arrest a clown for wearing a clown mask in public. Children under the age of 16 are generally exempted from these laws, however. While this may sound like an abuse of police authority and a violation of a person's First Amendment right to free expression, laws prohibiting hiding your face while in public are rooted in public safety and are regularly upheld by courts.

These laws are not new. The Louisiana law prohibiting someone from hiding their face in public was passed in the 1920s as a response to the spread of the Ku Klux Klan. The law made donning a KKK mask an arrestable offense with potentially a six month to three year jail term.

Can I Wear Mask on Halloween?

While state laws can prohibit hiding your face with a mask in public, there are exceptions for holidays like Halloween, or Carnival, or Mardi Gras. However, even on Halloween, if you walk into a store wearing a mask, don't be surprised if you are asked to leave unless you take the mask off.

In recent years, people in costume have raised such havoc that shop keepers are now very wary whenever they see an individual walk in wearing a mask or costume. Many cities have had severe problems caused by Santa Claus's as a result of Santa Cons (events where large groups of people all get together to celebrate the holidays while wearing Santa Claus costumes).

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