In one popular holiday song, Santa Claus commits a hit and run, leaving Grandma on the side of the road. The jingle is good for a laugh around the Christmas tree, but what other crimes might St. Nick be charged with after his yearly gift-giving trek around the globe?
Stalking, breaking and entering
The obvious charges against Santa Claus would be stalking (“He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…”) and breaking and entering. However, according to defense attorneys, most allegations against Santa wouldn’t stick since homeowners invite him into their homes.
“By leaving out cookies and milk, decorating, and generally getting into the holiday spirit, you are inviting Santa onto your property,” says Brandon Merritt, a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania. “So long as he doesn’t violate his license by sneaking into the refrigerator and eating your leftover figgy pudding, he should be okay.”
Merritt isn’t the only attorney ready to defend Santa. Florida attorney David P. Johnson agrees, but he adds, “Now, if Santa breaks or destroys items during his visit, or is asked to leave, he may face a civil suit or trespass charge.”
If a homeowner does not celebrate Christmas, it could be argued that he has not, in fact, invited Santa into his home. In that case, California attorney Sara Mae McKerrihan, who has experience filing charges against criminal defendants, says Santa would run the risk of having a restraining order filed against him.
It seems that Santa’s biggest problems might stem from what happens when he’s not entering private residences, whether invited or not.
Violation of labor laws
Several employment attorneys think Santa may be in violation of labor laws. Does he overwork his elves or fairly compensate them for holiday overtime work? Do they get adequate breaks between shifts? We haven’t seen many of them on LinkedIn; hopefully, that’s not a sign that the elves have been forced to sign unfair non-competition agreements.
Of course, if Mr. Claus maintains his factory in the North Pole without satellite offices in the various countries he visits, he might escape the jurisdiction of standard labor laws and employee protections.
Flying without a license
More problematic are the allegations of operating an aircraft without a license and landing in a residential area. That is, if the Federal Aviation Administration can enforce such standards on a flying sleigh.
Immigration and customs violations
Customs is another thing entirely. If Santa crosses borders with certain items in his possession without declaring them according to each country’s laws, he could be violating any number of customs laws around the world. And then there’s the issue of entering said countries without proper documentation, like passports, work visas, or personal identification papers.
Collecting data on children
Attorney Richard A. Chapo, who specializes in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, says Santa receiving personal information from children under 13 years of age could result in Santa “being in blatant violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998” and receiving a fine of up to $16,000 per violation. Of course, defense attorneys like Merritt and Johnson would argue that he had parents’ permission and that, assuming Santa spoke to children at the local mall, the information retrieval operation took place in person rather than online. Therefore, Santa’s plea should be “not guilty.”
If Santa is caught and charged with any crimes this holiday season, former prosecutor Jay Finnecy encourages him to “invoke his right to remain silent, and retain counsel.” After that, let the snow fall where it may.