New York Bill Would Allow Police to Jail People Who Annoy Them

June 6th, 2013

No citizen has a right to commit acts of aggression and violence against a police officer or anyone else, for that matter. Also, most people find it mainstream for a legislature to assess a criminal penalty against someone for resisting a lawful arrest. However, there are also sometimes situations in which “resisting arrest” and “assault on an officer” charges are abused by corrupt cops.

According to WIVB, the New York State Assembly is considering a dangerous, clumsily-worded new bill that would give police too much power to arbitrarily imprison individuals who are not necessarily guilty of any crime. The bill, labeled S2402, makes it a criminal offense for any individual to “harass, annoy, threaten, or alarm” anyone he or she “reasonably should know to be a police officer” while making physical contact. Those found guilty would face a four-year prison term. Threatening a police officer is already against the law. Let’s discuss the massive loopholes in the bill’s language after the jump.

Annoying a Police Officer While Being in Non-Violent Physical Contact Should Not Be a Crime

It’s already against the law to commit violence against police officers. Obviously, hauling off and striking anyone out of nowhere is criminal behavior. However, the language of New York’s new bill goes much further than that. It attributes a four-year prison term to merely being in physical contact while annoying a police officer. Often, police suddenly arrest individuals who, for a moment or two, don’t understand their charges and ask questions while their body naturally stiffens, a survival mechanism that kicks in for many people when they are grabbed from behind by a stranger. This is not resisting arrest, but it could be considered annoying to the police officer.

If a police officer began initiating an arrest and a suspect reflexively grabbed the officer’s shirt to try and maintain balance while being cuffed, it could be argued that there was physical contact and that it was annoying. However, in that case, it was just a momentary reflex aimed at maintaining balance that wouldn’t amount to an assault or even an attempt to resist arrest. In fact, the well-known political activist Adam Kokesh was threatened with assault on an officer charges while being arrested under similar circumstances at the Smoke Down Prohibition rally in Philadelphia.

Annoyance Is Subjective

Violence is well-defined. Aggression against police officers is already against the law. However, annoyance is totally subjective. Anyone might find anything irritating, regardless of intent. Also, some people have rude personalities. There’s nothing illegal about that. It’s entirely possible that police officers could use the language in this bill to arrest individuals arbitrarily, even absent an arrest on any other charge.

What if a police officer detained a suspect, and the person began arguing with the officer about the nature of the alleged charges? Would that be considered annoying? What if it were determined that there were no applicable charges, and, in an effort to change that, the officer lied about potential legal consequences while making physical contact in an effort to panic the suspect into saying something “annoying”? Police officers are legally allowed to lie.

Aggression against anyone is wrong. However, being annoying is not a crime. S2402 is a disastrous bill that threatens the liberties of law-abiding citizens by criminalizing lawful, non-violent behavior and placing it in a category alongside physically assaulting an officer. Police employees could use this loophole to imprison virtually anyone for arbitrary or even personal reasons.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.