Op-Ed: These Illinois Halloween laws might scare you
(Illinois News Network) — How old is too old to trick-or-treat? And what time should Halloween festivities begin and end?
Growing up in central Illinois and the western suburbs of Chicago, kids aged out of going door-to-door somewhere around eighth grade. If you threw a few pumpkins or eggs, you’d likely get caught and sent home.
But the laws on the books can be much more frightening than that.
A story on rules governing trick-or-treating in Roanoke, Virginia, went viral earlier this month. In Roanoke, kids over the age of 12 who go trick-or-treating are technically guilty of a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail.
Scraping through a few hundred municipal codes in Illinois didn’t turn up any trick-or-treat ordinances allowing for jail time. But fines associated with age limits, curfews, masks and more were aplenty.
Belleville appears to be home to the strictest such laws in the state. In the Metro East city, it’s illegal to trick-or-treat beyond the eighth grade. Violation of that rule is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. That’s a lot to pay for a little candy.
And that’s not all. If you’re a Belleville resident over the age of 12 and would like to wear a mask in public on any day other than Halloween, you need to secure permission from the mayor or the chief of police. Without approval from one of the head pumpkins, you’re as guilty as the criminal high-school freshmen asking neighbors for a Payday candy bar.
Forsyth, outside Decatur, has one of the most unique and harsh restrictions in the state. Those trick-or-treating in the Macon County village should beware: Police can slap you with a fine of up to $750 if you “approach” a house that doesn’t have its porch light on.
Halloween-specific curfews enshrined in law pop up all over the state: From Chicago suburbs such as Orland Park (7 p.m., and a maximum $200 fine for a violation) and Palos Heights (7 p.m., $200 maximum); to central Illinois’ Oakwood (8:30 p.m., $500 maximum); to southern Illinois’ Maryville (9 p.m., $750 maximum).
Though it’s recently changed its tune, perhaps no area of Illinois was more of a Halloween hawk than Carbondale. The college town was home to infamous Halloween mischief for years, which in 2000 resulted in thousands of dollars worth of property damage. Officials said enough was enough and did everything they could to curb the mayhem – shutting down bars, sending students home for a few days and more – until just a few years ago. Later this month will be the first time in nearly two decades that Carbondale puts on a Halloween festival.
Nowhere else in the state comes close to what Carbondale was dealing with. It’s an extreme outlier.
The common response from local officials when confronted with Halloween laws that seem too harsh is 1) they were written long ago, and 2) they aren’t enforced. To the first point, leaders passed Belleville’s restrictions in 2008. The porch light rule in Forsyth flipped on in 2009. To the second point, laws aren’t enforced until they are. If they’re useless, eliminate them.
The simple truth is that Illinois has a problem with overregulating fun.
We’re one of the only states left in the nation to ban most consumer fireworks. State lawmakers earlier this year attempted to ban tackle football for kids under age 12. And both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill in the middle of the budget impasse last year to enact a litany of new laws on trampoline courts.
Thankfully, many communities don’t turn to special ordinances to enforce Halloween decorum. Officials instead issue safety tips, which can include recommended hours, costumes and more.
Village trustees in Carpentersville took a hands-off approach back in 2000 and left the holiday to parental discretion.
Trustee Judy Sigwalt was strongly opposed to the regulations. “I personally think safety precautions are a good thing, but whether they’re all going to abide by them or not comes from the individual parent; that comes from the home,” she told the Chicago Tribune at the time.
Sigwalt was on the right path. There are plenty of local rules already on the books to prevent harassment, loitering, soliciting, destruction of property and more.
Special spells to ward off trick-or-treating are overkill.