Can I Be Arrested in New York for Loitering?

There are some conflicting reports and news article on the internet about loitering in the boroughs of New York City. You may find articles on the internet that say that the loitering laws in New York were found unconstitutional. While it is true that the state’s anti-loitering law, passed in 1964, was ruled unconstitutional three times by state and federal courts in the 1980s and 1990s. However, it is important to understand that not all laws related to loitering were found to be unconstitutional but only some of the provisions.  In fact, you can be arrested in New York City and the crime is uniform throughout the five boroughs.  Loitering offenses are classified in two categories that will be explained in this blog post.
If you have been charged with loitering in, Brooklyn, Queens, Yonkers, Manhattan White Plains, or New City you should contact a criminal defense lawyer.  Having adequate legal representation for your crime is absolutely crucial.  Without a proper attorney, you may lose out on an available defense.  When fighting a criminal charge, knowledge is absolutely key, and Seth Koslow will help empower you with the knowledge and assistance necessary to combat your charges.

What is Loitering in New York?

Everyone has an idea of what it means to loiter somewhere. It is common to see signs outside of stores demanding “No Loitering.” However, even though this might lead to a store owner or a property owner calling the NYPD for loitering you may not be charged with loitering under New York Law.
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Loitering is codified in the New York Penal Law under three sections: 240.35, 240.36, and 240.37.A person is guilty of loitering when he: loiters or remains in a public place for the purpose of gambling with cards, dice, or other gambling paraphernalia. It is a crime in New York to loiter:

  • With the purpose of gamble
  • To buy or use drugs
  • To engage in prostitution or
  • To promote prostituting others.
  • While masked, except for masquerade parties.
  • At or near a school, or
  • At or near a transportation facility in order to engage business or entertain people.

These categories can be vague and confusing. You may be familiar with street performers in the subway stations and even have a favorite performer. These entertainers have become part of the New York culture.  As mentioned above, there have been some provisions of the loitering statute that have been found to be unconstitutional under New York law. Notably, Loitering for the purpose of begging, loitering in a public place for the purpose of engaging in “sexual behavior of a deviate nature”), and (loitering in a transportation facility and “unable to give a satisfactory explanation of his presence”) have all be found to be unconstitutional under New York law.

What Are the Penalties for Loitering?

New York law has different penalties for different crimes.  Depending on the loitering charge you may face different penalties. Generally, crimes fall into one of three categories, two of which are applicable to loitering. New York has codified crimes into, violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. Each category of misdemeanor offense has a maximum possible penalty that a judge may impose. Unless otherwise specified by law, courts can sentence someone convicted of a misdemeanor offense to pay a fine, serve jail time, or both. Loitering can be charged under:

  • Loitering under § 240.35 – is classed as a Violation. A violation means an offense, other than a traffic infraction for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of fifteen days cannot be imposed.
  • Loitering in the first degree – is a class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanor: not more than three months in jail and not more than $500 in fines
  • Loitering for purposes of engaging in a prostitution offense – Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanor: not more than one year in jail and not more than $1,000 in fines

Despite what you may have read on the internet, you can still be charged with loitering in New York City. If you have been charged with loitering it is wise to contact an experienced criminal attorney, despite loitering being classified as a relatively minor offense, it can still carry fines and even jail time.
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What is Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a relatively common charge in New York and is often charged simultaneously as loitering, which is why it is being discussed in this blog post. Many different acts can constitute disorderly conduct in New York, including:  

  • Fighting or engaging in other violent or threatening conduct
  • Making an unreasonable amount of noise
  • Using obscene or abusive language or gestures in public
  • Disturbing a lawful assembly or meeting
  • Blocking traffic (vehicular or pedestrian)
  • Congregating in public and refusing a police officer’s order to disperse, or
  • Creating an offensive or hazardous condition without good reason.

In truth, the definition of disorderly conduct is somewhat vague.  Essentially, any activity which a law enforcement officer deems to be causing annoyance, alarm, or inconvenience to the general public could potentially be considered an example of disorderly conduct.  Of course, police officers cannot simply arrest citizens on a whim — the citizen in question must be producing a disturbance, which is covered by the New York disorderly conduct laws.

Get the Help of an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in New York

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, an experienced attorney can help. Call the law offices of Seth Koslow at (347) 561-0025, or contact online today. We offer a free initial consultation.