Rain patters off the storm drain outside, disrupting the steam clouds rising towards the sky before dissipating into nothingness. Your face presses against the window pane, turning your nose into a pig snout, as you try to catch a glimpse of the figure moving in the shadow, and you wonder - is Batman a criminal?
I was trying to think of a good seasonal post, and I realized there’s a topic that has been missed time and time again. You’re familiar with Santa Claus? Big jolly guy? Delivers presents to good little boys and girls each year?
Well, he’s actually a criminal.
Think about it: where does this Santa Claus guy get off just strolling into my house, eating my food, and drinking my milk? Why isn’t this a crime?
The answer to that question, dear reader, is that it’s absolutely illegal, and with your help, we can convince the attorney general to prosecute him.
You might think that Santa can be prosecuted under burglary, sometimes colloquially known as breaking and entering. Unfortunately, Big Red does not enter people’s homes seeking to commit a felony. Without the requisite intent, Santa Claus’s crimes do not rise to the level of burglary. There is another crime more suited to the transgressions of the serial intruder: criminal mischief.
“A person commits the offense of criminal mischief if, without the effective consent of the owner, the person intentionally or knowingly… tampers with the tangible property of the owner and causes pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or a third person.”
Translation: Santa Claus, keep your grubby mitts off of my cookies and milk. Also, stop dumping coal all over my house, it’s not easy to keep it clean.
Vandalism is a crime (tampering with tangible property), regardless of “how little vandalism” was done. Whether I throw one piece or 1,000 pieces of coal on your floor, I’m still a dirty vandal. To the same point — who told Santa that he can eat our cookies and milk? Maybe parents set out cookies and milk looking forward to a late night snack. Maybe parents are trying to put their little ones to bed, and the kids say something like, “Wait, if we don’t leave out cookies and milk, Santa might pass our house by!” It might sound like they are then inviting Santa in, but wait! What’s this? The kids are afraid of what Santa might do? Incidentally, that’s a nail in the coffin under the legal theory of coercion.
Coercion is the use of undue influence to gain the consent of the individual. Consent like that doesn’t count as real consent. In fact, I would even argue that in this case the level of coercion rises to extortion. Extortion has been encompassed by the offense of theft in the state of Texas, and it involves gaining the permission of an individual to take their property through coercion.
I don’t know if y’all have heard, but Santa keeps a list of the dirt on everybody, and he obsessively checks the list over and over again. If he determines that you are “naughty,” he leaves you a lump of coal, effectively notifying the world that you were not a good person. He threatens to tell the world the severity of your transgressions if you do not do his bidding, and vandalizes your property with his coal-dusty calling cards. That is coercion, and the benefit he gains is your good behavior throughout the year— that’s a lot of value he’s getting through his vile tactics.
You might ask — is leaving coal behind really vandalism? I’ll answer that question with another question — if I break into your house tonight and leave a bunch of coal around, would you call me a vandal? You’re darn right you would.
Mr. Attorney General, we ask you to fulfill your duties and protect us from this perennial villain.