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Playing It Safe This Halloween in Ohio

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Halloween is one of the most memorable and beloved holidays for children and adults alike. Whether you have family traditions of decorating your home into a makeshift haunted house or simply enjoying the constant stream of trick-or-treaters, it’s a holiday that allows kids to be kids and parents to revive their youthful imagination. That said, Halloween is traditionally also a dangerous night due to a variety of factors that stem from individuals making avoidable mistakes and being reckless. Careful planning can help families in Columbus, Ohio to keep their kids safe and themselves out of jail. Here are some common mistakes that occur every year that can otherwise ruin this fun holiday.

Mischief on Devil’s Night

Mischief Night is an informal holiday of yesteryear that still has flare-ups across the country on the night before or on Halloween. It’s known as Devil’s Night in the Great Lakes region, but the general premise is common no matter where you live. Mischief Night generally encompasses one or more of the following “pranks” of delinquency that typically involve property crimes:

  • Toilet papering private property (ie: another’s home, business, or institution);
  • Egging cars and homes;
  • Smashing pumpkins;
  • Setting off illegal fireworks;
  • “Forking” yards (when you break plastic forks in someone’s grass);
  • Spray painting;
  • Other vandalism, such as breaking car windows or mailboxing (ie: hitting mailboxes with a bat while driving by).

It should be obvious that all of these are not advised and many of them can have very real consequences, even for juvenile offenders. While the desire to prank your friend (or rival) on Mischief Night or Halloween can seem trivial to some, the reality is that most of these aren’t consensual pranks among friends and are more akin to outright property vandalism or criminal mischief. The offender is often causing damages to private property that have real-world expenses and requires laborious effort to correct. While many of us recount escapades similar to these from our youth, the best advice, particularly in today’s world, is to remind your teenagers and children that these activities are not only ill-advised, but illegal too.

Drunk Driving (DUI) on Halloween

Even in a COVID-world, it’s to be expected that there will be noticeably more pedestrians on the dark roads on Halloween night. While there is never an acceptable time to drink and drive, choosing to do so on Halloween with so many families on the road can have dire consequences. Aside from being charged with operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) or driving under the influence (DUI), you can be solely responsible for a variety of traffic violations in Ohio from Wanton Disregard of the Safety of Persons or Property to Aggravated Vehicular Homicide. According to § 4511.20 of the Ohio Revised Code, Wanton Disregard of the Safety of Persons or Property is:

When a person operating a vehicle on any street or highway of the state does so intentionally or deliberately regardless of the safety of others or property.

This offense is punishable as a minor as a fourth or third-degree misdemeanor.

Similarly, but specific to the use of drugs or alcohol, § 2903.06 of the Ohio Revised Code describes Aggravated Vehicular Homicide as:

Causing the death of another while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance or recklessly operating a motor vehicle that causes the death of another. 

This offense is punishable as a felony of the third, second or first degree. Depending on the degree of the offense, a mandatory prison sentence may be imposed.

This is a serious matter that’s backed by facts too! According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 42% of those killed on Halloween night during a 4-year period were in traffic crashes that involved at least one drunk driver. That’s a lot of lives lost that could have been avoided, so exercise temperance or safe ride planning this year.

Driving on Marijuana (OVI)

It should be clear that driving recklessly or drunk is not to be done, but what about marijuana? Marijuana is not legal for recreational consumption in the state of Ohio, however, having under 100 grams (approximately 3.5 ounces) of cannabis is punishable as a minor misdemeanor and subject to only a $150 fine, so it’s not a felony offense, which means that some residents walk up to or near the line. While drivers are charged with driving under the influence of marijuana annually in the state of Ohio, it is very difficult to prove compared to alcohol. While marijuana may be harder to prove, if you find yourself in a car accident or pedestrian injury while displaying signs of consumption, plan on law enforcement testing you. According to Ohio Rev. Code § 4511.19, a person can be charged with marijuana OVI if they have:

A concentration of marihuana in the person’s urine of at least ten nanograms of marihuana per milliliter of the person’s urine or has a concentration of marihuana in the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma of at least two nanograms of marihuana per milliliter of the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma.

Similarly to alcohol, it is not advised to consume marijuana if you’re going to get behind the wheel. While many studies suggest that cannabis consumers have less desire to drive while indulging, there are equal amounts of studies that show slower response rates while high, which could prove problematic on such a high-trafficked evening, such as Halloween.

Other Pedestrian Hazards

There are many situations where car vs. pedestrian accidents can occur where both involved parties are 100% sober too, so it’s not always out of negligence or disregard for your neighbors that can find you in a tragic accident. An area to exercise heightened awareness is how you drive through neighborhoods and parking lots as there will be significantly more children weaving in and out of your path. 

An option that will likely be quite popular in response to COVID-19 will include many families participating in Trunk-or-Treat events. These celebrations are often hosted at a school, church, or local business’ parking lot to allow children to go from trunk to trunk to trick-or-treat safely with their families. Even outside of these events, parking lots in general will have more foot traffic as families make last-minute trips for either candy, party supplies, or final costume additions. While all accidents and incidents can’t be avoided, some steps you should employ on Halloween include:

  • Be distraction-free or at least minimizing your distractions (ie: passenger shenanigans)
  • Don’t wear your elaborate costume if it inhibits your normal or safe driving mechanics
  • Don’t wear your Halloween mask while driving, as many are ill-fitting and could inadvertently slip over your field of vision
  • While it’s a celebratory night, limit your celebrations while driving to be alert for these pedestrian hazards (ie: lower music, avoid using your cell phone, keep focused on what’s in front of you and what can enter your path)
  • While incidents involving cars vs. pedestrians don’t necessarily imply negligence or malice, you can still face a variety of traffic violations that can have lasting effects on your life and driving record. 

What to Do if I Get in Trouble on Halloween?

While our hope is that you don’t perform any of the infractions, crimes, or lapses of judgment listed above this Halloween, if you do find yourself in trouble, it’s best to reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbus.

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