While there are rarely specific laws targeting toilet papering offenses in the United States, there are many laws that prohibit much of what goes on while engaging in the act.
Let us explain.
Is TPing a House Illegal? (EXPLAINED)
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What is TPing a House?
“TPing,” also known as “toilet papering,” “yard rolling,” and/or “house wrapping” is an activity commonly engaged in by people in their teen years or early 20s.
In most cases, the act is meant as a fun prank, and is done to people known to them, often friends or family.
It can also be malicious, but this is rare.
When you “toilet paper” a house, you sneak onto a residential property and throw the toilet paper around, covering the house or shrubbery in various amounts of toilet paper.
The TPing might cover the lawn or vehicles.
When you throw the toilet paper, it unrolls as it goes, so the paper can get high into trees or over the roof of the house.
People might also “TP” the office of a colleague, a common room of a dorm or bathroom, or just about anywhere that would cause annoyance to the recipient of the act.
Common charges associated with TPing.
Here’s what is problematic with TPing.
First, the people engaged in the TPing enter onto or into property owned or managed by someone else.
The entry is done without permission.
Compare the elements of criminal trespass:
- person enters or remains
- unlawfully in or upon premises
The seriousness of the trespass (first vs second or even third degree) often depends upon whether or not the defendant entered the building, whether the building is a dwelling where people live, whether the defendant had been previously told not to come into or onto the premises, entering with the intent to commit theft or other crimes, and more.
Next, TPing involves the tossing and throwing of large amounts of toilet paper, and then running away, leaving all the paper behind.
In most jurisdictions, littering is a crime.
The elements of littering are often something like:
- Dropping, discarding or scattering waste
- in a place not intended for the waste (like a garbage can)
Another common charge associated with toilet papering is “disorderly conduct.”
The elements of disorderly conduct are often like:
- with the intent to cause a nuisance, public alarm, or violence,
- the person creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition.
While toilet papering is rarely intended to cause public alarm, it is often intended to be a nuisance.
In some situations, the toilet paper on the house and car (inside or out) is hazardous.
Think about how slippery mounds of wet toilet paper on hard surfaces could be.
Or how dangerous it could be for something to have to climb up into a tall tree or on top of a roof to get the paper off to return the house to its original condition.
Another common charge associated with toilet papering is “criminal mischief.”
Another common charge seen in TPing incidents is “criminal mischief.”
In the least serious of the criminal mischief charges, the elements are something like:
- person interferes with the property of another
- with the intent to cause substantial inconvenience to another
- with no right to do so
More serious version of criminal mischief account for property damage.
If a homeowner has to hire someone to resolve the toilet papering, this could be considered “damage” under the criminal mischief statute.
If pulling out the paper damages branches, roof tiles, or windows, this could also be considered “damage.”
Finally, if the toilet papering disturbs certain utilities that are connected to the property (such as water, electric, or even cable), there could be a separate charge.
Will You Get Arrested For TPing a House?
Most TPing is done in good fun, without the intent to permanently do harm or damage to the recipient.
After all, the recipient is generally well known and liked by the group engaging in the TPing.
In most cases, the receiver of the TPing does not contact the police to report the incident or take any other significant action (beyond returning the favor another night).
However, if the TPing is extensive, done with malice, or cause significant damage to the premises, it is likely that police will be called.
If the TPing is done in the middle of the night (scaring the owners of the home), the police might also be contacted, as the homeowners don’t always realize that a fun prank is occurring.
If the police can identify the perpetrators of the toilet papering, an arrest/criminal charges are possible.
But again, it comes down to whether or not the police become involved in the situation.
While the police and prosecutor are the one that will determine whether a case will proceed, they will likely take into consideration whether the homeowner feels strongly for or against the pursuit of criminal action against the perpetrators.
Other Risks Of TPing
TPing is common in the United States, but is not without risks.
In addition to the possibility of criminal charges, running around on someone’s property at night without notice or permission could result in additional damage to the property (stepping on valued plants or bushes).
Pranksters could get bitten by dogs, or maybe even see the business end of a firearm.
Does it make it a better justice system when all the judges are former prosecutors? That’s another question entirely.
Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?
Browse our free legal library guides for more information.
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