Halloween Masks and the Law

Is It Legal to Wear a Mask on Halloween?

Leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler (at least some days), and Christmas trees are beginning to appear in department stores everywhere. These signs can only mean one thing: Halloween is on its way.

That’s a good thing, especially for those who love to dress up. Whether you plan to be silly, clever, or scary, there is a certain element of freedom in dressing up one night a year and being someone that you aren’t. But is it really ok? We have received emails from cautious individuals wondering if they need to change their costume plans. Interestingly, because masks and disguises have historically been used to intimidate others, there are laws against wearing of such costumes.

According to North Carolina State Law, it is illegal for anyone over the age of 16 (legal adult) to wear a mask or hood over your face so as to conceal the identity of the person wearing the mask. North Carolina General Statutes § 14-12.7-10 ban the wearing of masks and hoods on public streets, sidewalks, public property (such as a park or building), and also on private property. This ban even extends to disguising a person’s voice! Moreover, violating this ban on masks and disguises will result in a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

However, there are certain exceptions to the ban on disguises. A person under the age of 16 is not subject to this law. Meetings or demonstrations on private property are also exempt if the person or persons seeking to wear disguises obtain written permission from the owner or occupier of the property, which must “be recorded in the office of the register of deeds of the county in which said property is located.” Also, masks in theatrical productions or for protective purposes are further exempt. Finally, and perhaps most pertinently, North Carolina General Statute § 14-12.11 makes an exemption for any person wearing a traditional holiday costume in season.

Because Halloween would fit into the “traditional holiday costumes in season” exception, you may feel free to take advantage of the one day that allows a loophole big enough for everyone to fit into. So have fun and be safe in your Halloween disguise this year.