The “creepy clown” trend that first emerged in the U.S has moved north of the border and is affecting cities and towns across Ontario. Police in Durham region have responded to more than 30 calls involving “creepy clowns” in less than three weeks.
Recently, three Oshawa teens were charged with causing a nuisance after pulling up to pedestrians in a grey vehicle while dressed as clowns, opening the doors, and trying to scare other drivers. One of the teens was additionally charged with reckless driving.
While the “creepy clown” trend may seem like a harmless prank, or a funny way to bring yourself some fleeting Internet fame, there can be some serious civil and criminal repercussions.
Reckless Driving and Other Driving Offences
Negligence and reckless driving are both civil, not criminal charges. However, if the actions of these three Oshawa pranksters were more serious, and caused bodily harm, for instance, they could potentially have faced more serious criminal charges of criminal negligence or dangerous driving.
We’ve previously blogged about driving offences and their potentially significant consequences. Not only do these offences carry significant financial penalties and substantial implications on car insurance, they can also come with potential jail terms (up to 5 years, or 10-14 years for dangerous driving depending on whether it caused bodily harm). Needless to say, pranking someone while operating a motor vehicle (whether or not you’re dressed as a clown) is not advisable, and can have serious implications.
Other Potential Criminal Implications of “Creepy Clowning”
After receiving more than a dozen calls about creepy clown sightings in the area, police in Kitchener-Waterloo had to issue warnings to the public stating that while it is not illegal to dress like a clown, it is a crime to intimidate, threaten or harass people, even if it done just as a prank.
A Waterloo Region police spokesperson stated that police become concerned and potential criminal charges are possible where people dressed as clowns “…start to chase young children, start to try to scare young adults, or, in some cases carry replica weapons and try to intimidate individuals”.
There were multiple such incidents in the Kitchener-Waterloo area recently. In one case a clown was seen carrying an imitation sword and a plastic gun. In another, two clowns chased a pair of girls, and in yet another three clowns (one carrying a large stick) followed a pedestrian. Nobody was physically injured in any of these cases, but this does not mean that criminal charges would not have been laid had police found the pranksters. The perpetrators may have, for instance, faced assault charges.
Section 265(1) of the Criminal Code provides that a person commits an assault where he/she “attempts or threatens, by an act or gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect [his/her] purposes.”
It is not difficult to see how someone dressed as a clown and acting menacingly/chasing someone down the street could be viewed as threatening to apply force to another person through their act or gesture, therefore facing possible assault charges.
Such charges would be even more likely where the person dressed as a clown was carrying a “weapon”, even if it was plastic given that under s. 265(1), it is also assault to “accost or impede another person” while “openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof.”
What Does This Mean?
As funny as it may seem to terrify someone while dressed as a clown, it is noteworthy that any such actions could lead to criminal charges, particularly as communities, schools, and parents have become very sensitive to such actions in recent weeks.
Lessons to learn from all of this? Be smart this Halloween.
The lawyers at Affleck & Barrison are extremely knowledgeable and are experienced at fighting a wide range of assault offences. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation. We offer 24-hour phone service for your convenience, and a variety of payment options, including Legal Aid. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.