Is Santa Claus a Criminal?

This is a guest post by Dave Owens.

It’s Christmas season and we all know what that means: Santa Claus will once again engage in various criminal activities.Santa Claus criminal

Poet and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Good men must not obey the laws too well.”

While that is an interesting philosophical and moral argument, it is not a legal one.

Santa Claus, though well intentioned, may technically be committing several crimes every Christmas Eve.

Here are just a few of the crimes he is potentially committing:


In California, pursuant to Penal Code § 459, burglary is the entering of a structure with the intent to commit larceny (grand or petty) or any felony.

Of course Santa would argue that when he comes down the chimney and enters your living room, he has no such criminal intention. However, a vigilant prosecutor would certainly try to prove otherwise.


In California, pursuant to Penal Code § 602, a criminal trespass is the entering and occupying of another person’s property without their permission.

However, consent is a defense to a trespass charge. So, it could be argued that the act of leaving milk and cookies out for consumption constitutes consent on behalf of the homeowner.

Private Aircraft Entering the U.S.

Santa enters and exits the United States as he pleases. By doing this, he is violating federal law.

The U.S. airspace is governed by regulations set by Federal Aviation Regulations, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Defense.

Before entering or exiting the country, a private aircraft must provide notice of arrival, departure, and passenger manifests through the Advance Information Passenger System.

If the pilot (in this case Santa) fails to comply it can result in a fine of $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation.

Flying Without a License

Santa presumably flies without a license. Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires that a pilot must first be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration before he can fly an aircraft.

The penalty for flying an aircraft without a license is $10,000 ($25,000 in the case of a person operating an aircraft for the transportation of passengers or property for compensation) and up to three years in prison.

Unregulated Toys

Santa brings unregulated toys into the country. Toys cannot be imported into the United States without complying with the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection. Toys and children’s articles must also comply with the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

For these violations, Santa could face criminal and civil penalties.

Labor Practices

Employing elves and not paying them would certainly be an illegal labor practice in the United States, but since the work is done outside the United States’ jurisdiction, a prosecutor would likely not be able to bring charges against Santa for his labor practices.  It seems Santa has found a legal loophole to support his business practices.

These are just a few of the crimes Santa Clause potentially commits every Christmas Eve. As you can see, a vigilant prosecutor could have a field day with this. For those who support his cause, despite alleged illegalities, you can only hope that he can continue to elude the authorities.

Dave Owens can be reached at

Photo credit: Flickr/Kevin Dooley





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