No Clowning Around: This Halloween, That Could Lead To Serious Legal Trouble

There's been a rash of creepy clowns terrorizing children and neighborhoods throughout the U.S. for the last couple months—and nobody is exactly sure why it started. Whether it's a joke, an intentional terror-inducing prank, or something else, the police are now taking notice. If you're thinking of having a little fun by "clowning around," especially since the Halloween season is about to begin, think again. You could end up in serious trouble.

The creepy clown craze is scaring people in numerous places.

There were numerous reports out of Greenville, South Carolina, of clowns trying to lure children into the woods, sometimes with money. In Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, two different men dressed as clowns were seen yelling at children. At least 11 other states have also reported the problem, and several schools in Alabama were put on lockdown after a series of Facebook posts from people identifying themselves as some of the clowns made threats against local school children.

Police think that for whatever reason the first incident occurred, others across the country are joining in because they think it's a fun prank. News of earlier incidents was rapidly spread via social media and some people simply couldn't resist taking a bad joke a little too far, especially given the upcoming holiday season, which is known for its celebration of all things spooky.

This is one Halloween prank that can get you arrested.

The prank, if that is what it was intended to be, has attracted enough police attention that merely hinting around on social media that a clown is going to show up around a school is enough to get you into serious trouble. In the Alabama case, police arrested a 22-year-old woman for making terroristic threats, a felony charge.

Even if your intentions are more just to pull a prank than to really terrify, your sense of humor could still lead to serious charges. Georgia police recently arrested two people for making false reports about clowns trying to lure children into a van. A North Carolina man also invented a story of a creepy clown sighting and was arrested when he admitted it was false. Filing a false police report can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the state. However, if the police decide that your intent was to induce terror, filing a false report can lead to a 7-year minimum sentence—even if you did nothing violent.

If you actually decide to dress up like a clown to scare people, you may be charged with disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct. In the case of one man who decided to "clown around" with shoppers at a Dollar Tree, the police charged him with second-degree harassment. In some states, such actions could be elevated to stalking and menacing charges, which are generally more serious.

Whatever your motivation, clowning around right now could have serious legal repercussions, so the best thing to do is to avoid getting involved, even if you just think it would be a funny prank. Naturally, you never want to file a false police report, for any reason. If you do make a mistake, however, contact a criminal defense attorney promptly to discuss your case. Depending on the circumstances, particularly if you didn't realize the ominous tone the whole thing has taken as of late, your attorney may be able to get your charges reduced or help you avoid jail time in exchange for probation and community service.