Police

Touching Someone Inappropriately on Subway or Bus to Come With One Year Jail Sentence for New Yorkers

Miscellaneous "sexual contact" goes from Class B to Class A misdemeanor when it takes place on train or bus.

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m01229/Flickr

Last week, the New York state legislature passed a bill enhancing the penalties for inappropriate touching "on a bus, train, or subway car." Under the new rule, which has not yet been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, anyone convicted may be fined $1,000 and sentenced to one year in jail or three years of probation. 

Currently, "forcible touching"—which includes "squeezing, grabbing or pinching" someone's "sexual or other intimate parts"—is a class A misdemeanor sex offense while "sexual abuse in the third degree," defined as any "sexual contact without [another person's] consent," is a class B misdemeanor. As such, third-degree sexual abuse carries a maximum penalty of three months in jail and a $500 fine.

The new legislation raises miscellaneous "sexual contact"—defined as the "touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person not married to the actor for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party [including] the touching of the actor by the victim, as well as the touching of the victim by the actor, whether directly or through clothing"— from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor when it takes place on (public or private) buses and trains. "New Yorkers use public transit each and every day to get where they need to go," said bill sponsor Aravella Simota (D-Queens), "and no one should be afraid of being inappropriately touched or groped against their will when they get on the bus, train or subway." 

New York City can and does go after subway gropers already for both forcible touching and third-degree sexual abuse. In 2014, for instance, NYPD cops made 128 arrests for forced touching or other misdemeanor sex offenses on the city's subways. But as it stands, the state can only charge those in transit for grinding up against someone or touching that falls short of grabbing with the lesser misdemeanor and the lesser penalty.

Semi-props to Bustle's Emma Cueto, the only mainstream women's blogger I've seen to so much as question how the law will play out in practice. "It's worth wondering who will be targeted by such a law," writes Cueto. "We have seen at least one case recently that suggests police in New York could use women's concerns about men on the subway as a pretext for targeting men of color, which shouldn't be how the law is used." She's so, so close to realizing that how a law should be used has nothing to do with how it will, which is sadly much more critical thought than the Jezebel crowd seems capable of. Even with blogger Clover Hope mis-reporting that sexual contact on the subway would become a felony, commenters were unabashedly enthused, although some worried that there aren't enough police around to enforce the law adequately.

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  1. Oh, tell me about it.

    I told a story not long ago about how I tapped a female MTA train conductor on the arm and got read the riot act about how ‘touching’ is a high crime regardless of intent. Basically its public workers finding new ways to say FYTW all the time, lording over the little people, untouchable.

    1. To be fair, what I’m talking about is a different law… And it’s a felony. “Interfering with an MTA worker. ” 7 years

      1. I can’t think of any female conductors on the Metro North that I would want to tap. And tapping conductors is a thing now, is it?

        1. And tapping conductors is a thing now, is it?

          If you know a better way to steal electricity I’d like to hear it, smartguy.

      2. The law you’re thinking of covers “assault”, not “interfering”. Of course, it’s complete bollocks that MTA workers are a protected class.

        1. AGGRAVATED BATTERY. Death penalty.

        2. Actually, if you dig up the details of the thing in question (which covers everyone from MTA train conductors, to subway workers on tracks, and bus drivers)… there’s a wider latitude than ‘assault’ – although the 7years thing i’ve seen references exactly that.

          my point was the law covers them under a wide statute that has a range of penalties for any kind of interference with MTA workers. i don’t mean to imply that i could have got 7yrs for unwanted touching, but that my act was *criminalized* nevertheless by a law that is so broad as to make any harmless act punishable if the employee feels aggrieved enough

  2. This is why Warty lives in Cleveland, where inappropriate touching is legal.

    1. Well, mandatory, really.

  3. I checked my crystal ball and read a news report from one year in the future:

    NYPD reports that groping incidents at bus stops and subway stations have increased 1,000,000%. Apparently the pervs have learned to get it out of their system before getting on the bus or train. NY is now considering legislation that will increase penalties for groping at bus stops and subway stations. Officials continue to dismiss heretics who point out that groping is already illegal and creating specific laws for specific locations doesn’t make any damn sense.

  4. Oh man, the potential here for abuse is enormous, as is par for the course with so many laws. I don’t know how many people here have regularly taken NYC mass transit at rush hour, but…there is inadvertent touching all over the place, just because people are crowded in so tight. It basically can’t be avoided.

    1. It basically can’t be avoided.

      Hot summer day in New York during rush hour, tensions are higher than usual…this law will work just fine.

      1. + 1 free the nipple.

    2. Is that where you get your action?

      1. Since when does your mom take the subway?

        1. Dude, Pl?ya’s mom is in one of those mariachi bands.

    3. just because people are crowded in so tight. It basically can’t be avoided.

      Came to say this. I’m not sure people who haven’t experienced it can really understand what it’s like. Just when you think absolutely no one else can fit because you’re already packed in like sardines… 20 more people board.

      1. Including the couple of assholes who are standing mostly outside the doors, but keep nudging until the doors can close.

    4. When i first moved to the city I lived in Astoria and worked by the Bull. There were times I simply couldn’t get on the 4 or 5 train at 59th street because the trains were so packed. Sometimes I’d have to wait for the 3rd or 4th train to go by before I could squeeze in.

      1. I used to take the 4 or 5 from 86th St down to Union Sq and then back. Getting on in Union Sq to go back was…fun. I’d go to the very end of the platform just to get away from the worst of the crush, and at times it was still terrible.

        1. Very first car is the least packed…sometimes.

          I’m pretty much over NYC and the northeast in general. Subway being the least of the problems. I’m flying to Alabama next week for a week for a job interview and to check out the area (Gulf Shores, Orange Beach). Would be managing a very big bar on the Gulf. Really hoping it works out.

  5. I cannot wait to read about the first time a guy brushes past a woman on a crowded train and the phone in his pocket comes in contact with her ass.

    1. Well, that could be happening already. The behavior in question here is already illegal, this just makes it extra super bad on a subway car…for some reason.

    2. While shooting video and auto-uploading to pornhub.

    3. The intent requirement doesn’t really stop you from getting prosecuted. I mean, how much evidence do they really require to show that your accidental touching was intended to be sexual?

      I’m sure assault, battery, etc. are already on the books, so I’m not sure why they need a new law. Is there a lot of sex on trains?

      1. “so I’m not sure why they need a new law. ”

        The young woman called Aravella Simota beating a path up the political ladder needs this law as a notch on her women’s rights belt.

        Aside from the thinking gems out there- It’s not as if the vast majority of women will be irritated by any new law, however onerous, that advances the female protection racket.

  6. The best weapon against inappropriate touching on the subway was and remains stiletto heels. Not that I would know because I rarely took the subway, too hot and stinky.

    1. I rarely took the subway

      What is life like up there in your non-body odor ivory tower? Huh?

      1. Some people just don’t have odor, man. I, like a lot of Scandinavians, do not. My wife didn’t believe me when I told her, so I went a week without showering. She couldn’t tell.

        1. Maybe your wife just doesn’t have a nose?

    2. I agree for the most part.

      The best weapon against inappropriate touching on the subway was and remains stiletto heels being unattractive. Not that I would know because I rarely took the subway, too hot and stinky I’m attractive.

    3. Don’t need heels. You cultivate the, “Touch me and you’ll draw back a stump” glare.

      SJW’s are incapable of this glare because it requires self-confidence and a complete lack of victim mentality.

  7. [including] the touching of the actor by the victim

    R u srs?

    1. Hey! Learn how to spell, k?

  8. Yay, riding the subway is even more perilous.

  9. All this talk about “actors”… is this bill about broadway?

  10. New Yorkers claim to be tough, but if straphangers can’t even take a little TSA-quality groping on the way to Gray’s Papaya, then they’re not as hardened as they would have us believe. Here in rural America we call that kind of unwanted ass pinching a typical Friday night.

    1. Hey now, it’s not like we claimed to be Boston strong.

    2. Isn’t New York where women can ride the subway topless?

  11. Why don’t they just make it a crime to be male? Is there any chance a woman would ever be prosecuted for this (or ‘manspreading’)? Get out of New York while you still can!

  12. I wish there was a way to determine how much actual groping there is (I know it happens, and probably more than even my twisted mind can imagine) and how much perceived groping there is.

    I think there are similarities to this legislation and the catcalling kerfuffle that happened somewhat recently, not in terms of the behavior (groping is obviously a crime) but in terms of the victims. Anything that can potentially make women feel uncomfortable (as Epi said some level of touching is going to happen just because of how many people are on the trains) is a crime.

    This is anecdotal, but I know two women, both college educated and white who frequent the subway who insist upon standing because they think men are thrusting their crotches into their faces. Is that going to be a felony someday as well?

    1. This is anecdotal, but I know two women, both college educated and white who frequent the subway who insist upon standing because they think men are thrusting their crotches into their faces.

      Good. More room for me to sit.

      1. That’s bullshit, but the standing men are staring down your blouse.

        1. It’s impossible not to – I have no interest in those things but even I do it.

          1. It’s well established that everyone likes tits. Men, women, gay men, everyone. Aliens fly here just to see them.

  13. Why don’t they segregate the cars? The last 2 cars of the train: Women Only. They can paint them pink.

    1. So Lesbian groping is okay.

      Of course it is, what am I thinking. No one with a penis could possibly be innocent and no one with a vagina could possibly be guilty.

      1. Since we seem to be entering new Victorian Age of moral outrage, sure.

        It was never illegal in the UK for women to have hot girl-on-girl action, it was only men that did icky stuff like that, and so the laws were only applied to guys.

        The good thing (just about the only good thing) is that we’ll soon have the choice of 17 different types of monocle, canes and top hats, and I’ll be able to get a new supply of street urchins to sweep my chimney clear of coal-dust and soot.

        1. Igor, you can already get 17 types of monocles here. I own a classic gold rimmed and the ruggedized tactical. And as far as canes and top hats, there are many many steam punk emporiums to select from. The Victorian many-button granny boots are surprisingly comfortable.

          1. You sound like my kind of woman, BuSab Agent.

            Please provide a copy of your Real Libertarian Credentials, FICA score and two high definition full body photos, and my booking staff will get back to you, pronto.

  14. “and no one should be afraid of being inappropriately touched or groped against their will when they get on the bus, train or subway.”

    “All touching and groping conducted by metro security is, of course, appropriate.”

  15. In 2014, for instance, NYPD cops made 128 arrests for forced touching or other misdemeanor sex offenses on the city’s subways.

    This is an insanely low number, given that there are over 5 million daily riders. That is like a 1 in 15 million chance of getting groped today. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

  16. This stuff situation will only worsen as the population gets be more and more obese. It’s incredible that some folks are even able to get through the door, much less avoid being “inappropriately” touched.

    1. *** gets be coffee ***

    2. Fun fact: the newer cars have wider doors and no ass-dimple on the seats. The older cars really do feel like they designed for children.

  17. Do they also ban public displays of affection?

  18. So, on the bus today, some chick brushed her boob against my arm walking by. Suppose it was intentional on her part.

    Can I be charged? I note that the language is drafted both ways, that it can be either actor or victim who does the touching of the other person and whether intended for the gratification of the victim or the actor. Which begs the question who is the victim and who is the actor?

    “touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person not married to the actor for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party [including] the touching of the actor by the victim, as well as the touching of the victim by the actor, whether directly or through clothing”

    Whatever happened to good old-fashioned self-help, i.e. slapping the guy?

    I can’t wait until this law gets taken to nightclubs and bars.

  19. So what are “intimate parts”? All of my body parts are intimate to *me*, under most of the definitions in my Merriam-Webster’s 10th:

    1.a. Intrinsic, essential. Check
    b. belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature. Maybe not. (I’d still be human even if I lost my big toe.)
    2. marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity. Check. (I can’t imagine being more closely associated with anything other than something that’s actually part *of* me.)
    3.a. Marked by a warm friendship developing through long association. Not applicable.
    b. Suggesting informal warmth or privacy (as in “intimate clubs”). Not applicable.
    4. Of a very personal or private nature (as in “intimate secrets”). Well, all my parts are very personal to *me* (and I guess they’re private as well, in that they’re mine, and I don’t want the public treating them as their own).

  20. Reach out and touch someone at your peril.

  21. Simota gets her notch, but common sense is being mangled here which seems to be the course of modern legislation.

    1. Many of the women I work with in NYC are in the complicated situation of desperately wanting some intimacy with a guy (and they’re constantly compromising their ‘standards’) while simultaneously cheering this kind of legislation on.

      I propose a comprehensive marketing plan that relabels this kind of behavior as ‘foreplay’.

  22. So now its illegal for gay men to kiss on subways? Sweet. I can’t wait for this to become the Hate Crime that destroys itself

  23. Can I ask why it’s only a concern that this law would get used against ‘men of color?’ Is it seriously now just an accepted part of life that if a white guy gets unfairly fucked over by a vague or frivolously enforced law, he’s just getting what’s coming to him?

  24. In the old law, there seems to be little difference between the class A and class B misdemeanors. This is bothersome enough. The language of the new law is more disturbing.

    I’m wondering how “touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person not married to the actor” will be enforced. Will the transit authority look at a married couple going hellbent for leather on the subway as acting within the confines of the law? Should they carry a marriage certificate? Other photo ID would seem inadequate to prove marriage.

    Secondly, and following in the same sentence, is the phrase “the touching of the actor by the victim, as well as the touching of the victim by the actor.” Am I missing the word “consent” somewhere? Perhaps for brevity it was left out because someone assumes that it’s implied. But if there’s no mention of non consent on the part of the victim, where’s the victim? Mention of coercion must be addressed.

    The two due process clauses of the fifth and fourteenth amendments seem to show both the old and new laws void for vagueness.

  25. So when a guy is manspreading and a women sits on his leg, an action I hear women have been doing to protest manspreading; does she get charged with sexual assault or does he once he pops a chub?

    Also how does this law even work, he said vs she said? How can grab ass in an overcrowded subway be proven in a trial?

  26. Why does it matter where a crime occurs? The act should carry a penalty regardless of where it occurs. What makes the crime worse because it is on a train or bus vs on the street or in the station? Dumb.

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