By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York State Legislature has now made it a crime to harass or annoy a police officer while on duty. Codified in the New York Penal Law as section 240.33, the new law is set to protect police officers from those who engage in any form of physical contact with them while they are on the job.
Specifically, the law states that it is a class E felony to subject a police officer to any form of physical contact with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm the officer.
“Far too many law enforcement officers are being harassed, injured, even killed while honoring their commitment to protect and serve this state,” the New York state Legislature stated as its justification for the new law. “The Legislature has a responsibility to do everything we can to protect our brave heroes, our police officers, from violent criminals. This legislation contributes to that premise.”
“This law is ripe for abuse by law enforcement, because every arrest results in physical contact when the officer takes a persons arm and puts handcuffs on the person,” said Jay Schwitzman, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association.
“Often times people are hesitant to be handcuffed. Typically, the person is talking to the officer in an attempt to convince the officer not to arrest.” Under the new law, “the slightest reflex to avoid being handcuffed can now be considered a crime,” said Schwitzman.
Brooklyn attorney Howard Greenberg, however, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that “the law is a joke.” New York law, he says, already makes it a crime to assault or menace a police officer. “The harassment statutes as they have existed already covered this behavior,” he noted.
Greenberg added that in his opinion, the new law is “overly broad” and “unconstitutionally vague.”
A press release previously issued by the Legislature said, “The bill (S.2402), sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo would make it a felony to harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty.” The law’s language was subsequently changed.
The law is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, 2013.