Best practice if I'm pulled over while wearing a realistic silicone face mask?

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Jay Sunn

New Member
If I'm pulled over while wearing a realistic silicone face mask while driving that looks very different from my real face, should I take it off before the officer approaches my vehicle or wait until he/she is at my window to explain the situation?

In CA my understanding is that it's legal to wear a realistic silicone face mask while driving (not with the intention to commit or evade any crime or arrest).

Some background: I'm a victim of severe stalking and violence due to mentally ill family members, against whom I have both domestic violence restraining orders and criminal orders. There are pending criminal cases against them at well. I also have a disease that makes my skin sensitive to the sun. I'd like to, in order to help protect my safety, wear a silicone face mask when driving, particularly one that's of a different gender and/or race than my own. I've tried wearing balaclavas but they actually don't protect my eye area as well, and I also get funny looks from other drivers when driving. I'd like to just look "normal."
If I get pulled over, what's a good protocol in this case? I'm a lawful CCW holder as well, so I want to be extra careful I don't freak out law enforcement if I can avoid it.

Also, I have a clean driving record and haven't been pulled in many years, and that was for having my windows tinted, not reckless driving or anything. I have no criminal record.
Thank you.
If I'm pulled over while wearing a realistic silicone face mask while driving that looks very different from my real face, should I take it off before the officer approaches my vehicle or wait until he/she is at my window to explain the situation?

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An ABC30 viewer wanted to know: since I'm wearing a protective mask while going out in public, am I allowed to wear it while driving?

"Well, in these present days and unprecedented times with COVID-19, it's important to protect yourself with a face mask when you go out in public," said Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol. "It's perfectly fine for you to wear a face mask while you drive, but you have to understand, it cannot in any way shape or form impede your vision or compromise your ability to perceive and react to anything that happens in front of you."

"If it obstructs your view in any way shape or form, you probably shouldn't wear it," he said.

"Often what we see is drivers will drive with their mask around the neck, and when they go and exit their vehicle into the public areas, they will then lift the mask up and cover their mouth," Pennings said.

For other answers from the CHP, go to

If you have a question about the rules of the road, fill out the form below for a chance to be featured on Know the Road with the CHP.

Know the Road with the CHP: Am I allowed to wear a protective mask while driving?


Maybe it's because of Hollywood or perhaps it's just because California loves Halloween more than other states, but our state's mask laws are pretty relaxed overall. In fact, whereas some states make it illegal for people over 16 to wear masks and others ban their use outside of October, wearing a mask is legal for everyone year-round in California —even registered sex offenders. But while you can legally hide your face in public, it is illegal to do certain things while wearing a mask.

Is It Illegal to Hide Your Identity in Public?
Only one law makes it a crime to wear a mask in California -Penal Code 185 (PC). This law prohibits using a disguise or mask to evade the police or commit a crime. Of course, evading the police is already a crime, but if you wear a Halloween mask or other disguise to hide your identity while in public so you can get away with a crime, that alone is a crime. Under this law, putting on a mask to hide your identity is illegal, whether you do it while committing a crime or after the offense was already committed.

185 (PC) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000. Fortunately, these charges can often be negotiated away in a plea deal if you work with an experienced San Diego defense attorney.

Disguises Can be Used as Evidence Against You
Committing a crime with a mask or costume on could be used as evidence that you used forethought to plan the crime, which could cause you to face more serious charges in some cases. For example, should someone break into another person's home without committing a crime and the prosecution has no evidence they intended to violate the law, they could be charged with burglary.

On the other hand, if they wore a mask when they broke into the home, this could be used as evidence they intended to commit a crime. In this case, they could be charged with burglary as well. Again, an experienced lawyer could try to get the charges reduced or dropped in a case like this —especially if it took place on Halloween or during an emergency where it is common for people to wear that particular type of face covering, such as a disease outbreak, blizzard, or large fire.

Is It Illegal to Drive With a Halloween Mask on?
While wearing masks is legal as long as it's not done to commit a crime, driving with a face covering can result in a ticket or even reckless driving charges in some cases. While you can drive with a Halloween mask on, if it obstructs your vision even in the slightest or negatively impacts your driving, you could end up in legal trouble. A standard medical face mask that only covers your mouth and nose is entirely legal to wear while driving, as is a properly fitting ski mask or balaclava —though police officers may find these face coverings suspicious if you are wearing them while driving.

Always Follow Location-Specific Rules
Interestingly, while most people believe it is illegal to wear a mask in public places such as a bank or airport, doing so is perfectly legal, as long as you're not there to commit a crime. Of course, most banks and airports will ask you to remove the mask after you enter the location. If you fail to take off your face covering and refuse to leave after being instructed to do so, you could be charged with trespassing. In this case, you could still face charges for attempting to wear a mask into these places.

Whether or not you plan to wear a mask this Halloween, remember to have a fun, safe, and legal holiday. If you have any questions or happen to be charged with a crime after celebrating a bit too hard, a lawyer might offer you more insight. can help. Please call a lawyer or two to schedule a free initial consultation.

Is it Illegal to Wear a Costume Mask in Public in California?
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