Careful If You ‘Clown’ Around
The SAPD has received several requests about recent “Clown Sightings” across the Country, specifically, if we have dealt with these issues and what the legal ramifications would be for citizens who engage in (please forgive the pun) this type of clowning around.
First, dressing up as a clown, or anything else, is not in and of itself against the law. Hopefully we never get to the point as a society, or we would be forced to prohibit Halloween.
With that said, the San Angelo Police Department will enforce the laws of the State and City Ordinances, regardless of what the offender is wearing at the time those laws or ordinances are broken. While dressing up may not be against the law, doing so in public along with creating unnecessary alarm and or panic, can be deemed as disorderly conduct. Please refer to Chapter 42 of the Texas Penal Code for a complete list of Disorderly Conduct related offense. Other offenses, to include criminal trespass, burglary, assault, harassment, terroristic threats, etc., will be investigated by this agency regardless of the offender’s garb.
With mainstream media and social media coverage of clown sightings, clown pranks have created a real concern and risk for several communities throughout the Country. In January 2016, our own Officers responded to the 3300 block of Knickerbocker for the report of a possible escaped prisoner running down Knickerbocker. The man was described as wearing an orange jumpsuit with ‘Department of Corrections’ printed on the back and his face was painted like a clown. Officers made contact with the man, who said he dresses like a clown every couple of days, just for fun. The man did not break any laws and he was released following the detention.
Citizens who choose to dress like clowns and walk about in public, drive the public roadways, etc., should be aware that they may be placing themselves at risk for harm or causing risk of harm to others- whether from collisions near roadways or to bystanders and children who may become frightened. Creating ANY situation that violates the law places you at risk for arrest.
Citizens who become frightened and alarmed at a clown sighting should also be aware that harming someone, by any means, simply because they are wearing a costume can lead to arrest. Citizens who encounter clowns who are engaging in suspicious activity should note the clown and/or vehicle description, direction of travel, try to take a photo of the clown from a safe distance, and immediately call their local law enforcement agency.
Falsely reporting incidents of clown sightings to law enforcement is also illegal.