New Era Of Laws In New York City Means You're Less Likely To Be Arrested

Several policy changes in the city are relaxing controversial arrest practices.

Newly released statistics show that since 2013, more than 10,000 people have been arrested for asking for a swipe into the New York City subway system, The New York Times reported on Sunday. 

If that number sounds like a lot to you, you're not alone. That might be why the city announced last month it will be taking a more lenient approach to people asking for swipes into the subway. Officers are now instructed to issue a ticket, a court summons or a warning, which is in line with several recent adjustments to commonly broken laws in the United States' most populated city.

Over the last two years, New York has relaxed its laws regarding public drinking, littering, public urination, marijuana possession, taking up two seats on the subway, smoking in the subway and now begging for swipes.

While none of these actions have been made legal, they are much less likely to invoke an arrest. Manhattan decriminalized public drinking quietly in March, which is a big step forward for a town that wrote 124,498 summonses in 2011 for drinking in public. Now, you won't be arrested unless it's "necessary for public safety reasons."

In November of 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio decriminalized low-level marijuana possession throughout New York. Now, if you're caught with less than 25 grams of marijuana, you will get a ticket instead of an arrest (if you can provide ID and have no outstanding warrants). 

The change in the subway laws, which took place sporadically over the course of a couple years, is the latest in the city's effort to allocate police resources towards more serious and pending issues. Not only does the city want fewer people to be charged for nonviolent, low-level crimes, it also doesn't want to put officers and courts through the arduous task of processing those crimes.

"Through this initiative, we are devoting our resources to best protect and serve New Yorkers," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said in a statement. "By ensuring courts are not unnecessarily bogged down with minor offenses committed by those who pose no threat to public safety, we help focus police and prosecutorial resources on those who commit serious crimes... And by reducing unnecessary incarceration, we make our criminal justice system fairer for all New Yorkers."

Cover image via Spencer Platt / Getty Images.


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