Stop Clowning Around: Creepy Clowns Are Being Criminally Charged

Stop clowning around: there's been a rash of "creepy clown" sightings all over the country, and they seem to be picking up speed as Halloween approaches. If you're thinking of joining in on the craze just out of a sense of good fun or just because scaring the bejeebers out of someone is the reason for the season, you should know that the police aren't finding these sightings funny at all. You could end up facing serious charges. Here's what you should know before you put on that red nose and those oversized shoes.

You could face charges of menacing.

Menacing is essentially intentionally putting someone else in fear of physical injury or death. Menacing is generally treated as a 4th-degree misdemeanor, and it carries a potential sentence. Keep in mind that even if you know that you are joking, creepy clown sightings have caused police officers to put parents on alert, and there are fears that some of the clowns could be child predators in disguise. Depending on how the incident is charged, you could be facing a minor misdemeanor or a serious felony. For example, in Ohio, ordinary menacing can net you 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. However, if you involve a child in the situation, which many of these clowns are diubg, the charge can be elevated to menacing by stalking, which is a fourth-degree felony that carries a potential of 6–28 months in prison and a fine of $5,000.

You're more likely to be charged with making terroristic threats.

The law has absolutely no sense of humor when it comes to clowns who use their masked identities to terrify others. Because this has become a multi-state series of events, the FBI has gotten involved, and they aren't taking any of the situations lightly. 

For example, three teenage boys were cited with terroristic threats in Nebraska in two different incidents after they chased strangers with knives. They may have thought that it was a fun Halloween prank at the time, but they're now facing felony charges. Similarly, an Ohio boy used a "clown" persona on social media to threaten to kill high school students as they were leaving school. He also faces felony charges for terrorist threats. In Pheonix, Arizona, thousands of students have missed school because of similar problems. 

While the penalties for making terroristic threats vary from state to state, those charged with a felony face a year or more in prison. The maximum penalties can range from 40 years to more than a 100, depending on the circumstances. Fines can range from $200 to $10,000, at a minimum, while the maximum fine can exceed $250,000. In addition, you could face having to pay restitution for any manpower resources used during the investigation into your activities or compensation to the victims for the fear that they suffered.

It's important to note that the young age of those who have been arrested so far hasn't stopped authorities from pressing serious charges. The smart thing to do this year is skip past the clown section when it comes to Halloween costumes and let this craze fade away. If you do get caught up in it somehow, or your teenager makes this mistake, consult a criminal-defense attorney, such as one from Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices, as soon as possible for assistance.

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