New York state's highest court ruled it was not illegal to stand on a sidewalk, handing a win to a man arrested after refusing to move from the spot where he was standing and talking to friends in busy Times Square.
The New York Court of Appeals decided in favor of Matthew Jones on Tuesday. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest — by flailing his arms — on June 12, 2004. Police said other people "had to walk around" him, and he would not move when asked.
Jones man pleaded guilty to a violation after spending a night in jail, but he later appealed.
In order to prosecute someone for disorderly conduct in New York, the person must be acting "with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof" and obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic, according to the opinion written by Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick. The opinion was unanimous.
The court found that Jones' behavior did not meet the definition of disorderly conduct just because he stood in the middle of the sidewalk at 2:01 a.m. with friends.
"Otherwise, any person who happens to stop on a sidewalk — whether to greet another, to seek directions or simply to regain one's bearings — would be subject to prosecution under this statute," the opinion said.
The court also found that Jones could not have resisted arrest because his arrest was not authorized by the law.