Maybe it’s because of Hollywood or maybe it’s just because California loves Halloween more than others, but California’s mask laws are pretty relaxed overall. In fact, whereas some states only allow people under 16 to wear masks and others ban their use outside of October, wearing a mask in public is legal in California for just about anyone during any time of year in California. But California mask laws do prohibit you from doing somethings while wearing a mask.
The Only California Anti-Mask Law
There is only one true California anti-mask law. This law prohibits using a disguise or mask to evade the police or commit a crime. Of course, evading the police is already a crime, but by doing it in a mask or other disguise, you’re committing an additional offense just like you are by wearing a mask to commit any other crime. The bottom line is that if you wear a mask in public to hide your identity so you can get away with a crime, that alone is a crime. Wearing a mask for these purposes is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000. Fortunately, these smaller charges can often be negotiated away in a plea deal if you work with an experienced San Diego defense attorney.
Proof of Forethought
Additionally, committing a crime with a mask on could be used as evidence that you used forethought about committing the crime, which could make you face more serious charges in some case, even if you have not violated any California mask laws.
For example, if you break into someone’s home without committing a crime and there is no evidence you intended to commit a crime, you cannot be charged with burglary. On the other hand, if you wore a mask when you did so, you could not only be charged with wearing a mask to commit a crime, it could also provide evidence you intended to commit a crime while there and therefore, you could be charged with burglary as well. Again, an experienced lawyer could try to get the charges reduced or dropped in these types of cases -especially if it actually took place on Halloween or during an emergency such as a disease outbreak or large fire when many people wear masks with no intention of committing a crime.
Can You Drive With a Mask On?
Finally, it’s also worth adding that wearing a mask while driving could result in a ticket or even reckless driving charges depending on how much the mask obstructed your vision, how it affected your driving and on the officer issuing the ticket. A standard medical face mask that only covers your mouth and nose is entirely legal to wear while driving.
You Must Follow Specific Location Laws
Interestingly, while most people believe it is illegal to wear a mask in public places such as a bank or airport, doing so is perfectly legal in these areas as long as you’re not there to commit a crime. Of course, most banks and airports will ask you to remove the mask and failure to do so or to leave could result in your being charged with trespassing and then you could be charged with wearing a mask into these places.
California Mask Laws During the Coronavirus
Conversely, during the coronavirus pandemic, many California counties and cities, including National City, are actually requiring people to wear masks in public, or in certain locations such as essential businesses and local businesses are permitted to set their own rules requiring visitors wear a mask before entering. For example, in National City everyone is legally required to wear a mask in public and while failing to do so is a ticketable offense, police will usually not be actively citing violators but simply encouraging them to follow the order. In other areas, business owners can ask visitors to leave if they do not wear a mask and failure to put on a mask or leave at this point could open you up to trespassing charges.
Whether or not you plan to wear a mask in public for Halloween, remember to have a fun, safe and legal holiday. If you have any questions or happen to be charged with a crime after perhaps celebrating a bit too hard, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by David Locke