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.

Is it illegal to wear a mask on Halloween?

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.

§ 14-12.7. Wearing of masks, hoods, etc., on public ways. No person or persons at least 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood or device whereby the person, face or voice is disguised so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter, be or appear upon any lane, walkway, alley, street, road, highway or other public way in this State. (1953, c. 1193, s. 6; 1983, c. 175, ss. 1, 10; c. 720, s. 4.)

North Carolina General Statutes § 14-12.7 applies to public streets, sidewalks, public property (such as a park or building). 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.

There is also a Ban on approaching private houses:

§ 14-12.9. Entry, etc., upon premises of another while wearing mask, hood or other disguise. No person or persons at least 16 years of age shall, while wearing a mask, hood or device whereby the person, face or voice is disguised so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, demand entrance or admission, enter or come upon or into, or be upon or in the premises, enclosure or house of any other person in any municipality or county of this State. (1953, c. 1193, s. 8; 1983, c. 175, ss. 2, 10; c. 720, s. 4.)

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.