Mischief Night: Beware of the Law

What do you call the night before Halloween? For three quarters of Americans, it’s simply October 30th. Yet, for those that live in the Northeast, you know that October 30th is referred to as “Mischief Night” or some other variation. Mischief Night is an informal holiday on which children and teens engage in pranks and minor vandalism. Most commonly, these pranks consist of egging houses, throwing toilet paper in trees, and ding-dong-ditching. As the pranks have evolved however, it is smart to keep in mind as a participant or parent of a child participating in the Mischief Night activities the common criminal charges that occur on October 30th.

Jack-O-Lanterns on the night before HalloweenCriminal Mischief

A juvenile can be charged with criminal mischief for actions that cause damage to private or public property. Common Mischief Night pranks that could fall under criminal mischief charges include toilet papering a house, smashing pumpkins, and pranks resulting in damage to public property such as graveyards.

Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct is not as common as criminal mischief, but if police decide that someone is disturbing the peace or engaging in violent or dangerous behavior that exceeds a criminal mischief charge, a case for disorderly conduct may occur. The pranks and activities during Mischief Night have certainly advanced with time, resulting in more hazardous conditions than traditional pranks.


Trespassing is perhaps the most common charge that occurs on Mischief Night. Entering private property without authorization may result in a charge of trespassing. There are several degrees to which one can be charged with trespassing based on the barriers one passed to fulfill the prank, such as jumping a fence or breaking in versus throwing toilet paper from the street, for example.

Mischief Night might be a commonly accepted occasion, but the consequences if taken too far are not to be taken lightly. Whether you are a participant or a parent of a child or teen who partakes in Mischief Night, take the laws into consideration when planning a Mischief Night prank.

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