You were arrested for what?

You were arrested for what?

Did you know that in New York, if a police officer catches you flirting, you can be fined $25? If this antiquated law were enforced, then most of the city would be in danger. It’s been on the books for over 100 years and probably dates back to January 1902, when state Assemblyman Francis G. Landon of Dutchess County tried to pass a bill that punished drunken flirtation with a fine of up to $500. It never became law, but flirtation could still result in a $25 fine. Historians say that the law was intended to deter solicitation or prostitution.

There are plenty of other still-valid statutes that make no sense today. Many of them date back at least 300 years and were designed to reinforce the sanctity of the Lord’s Day (Sunday). Known as “blue laws,” they outlawed travel, sports, games, and even sex between married couples, all to encourage church attendance.

A thorough review of the New York penal code turns up several laws that are unconstitutional in modern society. Because they have never been officially challenged and repealed, they remain on the books like vintage photos or museum pieces that inspire wonder, curiosity, and some ridicule.

Here are some more bizarre city and state laws.

  • You can be charged with “offensive exhibition” if you operate a public event where someone voluntarily allows objects to be thrown in their direction (e.g. a dunking tank at a circus), throw knives at a person, or make them dance for eight hours straight.
  • If you hang clothes on a clothesline in Brooklyn without a license, then you can be arrested. This law was originally passed because clotheslines were thought to be an eyesore, but now they represent an environmentally friendly way to dry laundry.
  • If you operate a puppet show in any window or room of a house, then you’ve violated Section 10-114 of the city administrative code and can spend 30 days in jail.
  • It is illegal to be caught with an ice cream cone in your pocket on Sundays. This law was passed to deter people who would try to eat ice cream on Sundays and pocket their cones if a policeman approached.
  • Two or more people may not meet in public wearing masks. This law was passed in 1845 after tenant farmers dressed up as Native Americans to violently protest the lowering of wheat prices. Special exceptions were made for masquerade balls.

You’re not likely to be arrested for any of these outdated offenses today, but anytime you face criminal charges, contact a New York criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will know the law and use that knowledge to protect your rights. Julie Rendelman is an experienced New York City criminal defense lawyer. If you are the subject of a criminal investigation or have already been arrested, then your first step should be to contact a qualified attorney. Do not speak to investigators or the police about your case. Call the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman, LLC at 212-951-1232 for a free consultation instead. Ms. Rendelman may be able to work with you to develop a solid defense strategy.