NYC: drinking beer on a stoop

by Walter Olson on July 13, 2012

“I don’t care what the law says, you’re getting a summons,” says the officer. But property rights turn out to have their day. [Vivian Lee, NY Times "City Room"] More: Above the Law interview with Brooklyn Law student Andrew Rausa.

{ 8 comments }

1 Bill Poser 07.13.12 at 3:23 am

What is most disturbing about this case is that it is not a matter of citizens and the police having different interpretations of the law but rather of the police deliberately ignoring the law. The silver lining is, I think, that by admitting that he doesn’t care what the law is, the officer in question has given up any possible defence against a civil suit.

2 CTrees 07.13.12 at 9:45 am

@Bill: unfortunately, officers’ words are given more weight than those of private citizens, so “I never said that, and my partner can confirm I never said that,” or even “what I said was, ‘I don’t care what some random website says the law is, you’re getting a summons'” is going to make things difficult (I’ve seen no mention of recordings being made).

3 foodhoundnyc 07.13.12 at 10:30 am

I’m on the fence on the this one. I’m all for people being about to enjoy the stoop or steps of the building, especially when it’s nice out. Having a few casual drinks is great. Although, if you’re slugging 10 G&T, getting wild and making it uncomfortable for people to walk by, that’s where I have an issue. In regards to the cop abusing his power… unfortunately we see this all the time. I was actually the victim of something like this last summer. This is definitely an issue.

4 madanthony 07.13.12 at 10:36 am

The article actually does mention a recording:

With photos that he snapped of the stoop and a recording he made of part of his conversation with the officer, Mr. Rausa plans to represent himself in court. No court date has been set

5 CTrees 07.13.12 at 3:30 pm

Hrm, must have been reading too quickly. I saw that he took some pictures, but apparently missed the part about the recording. Oh, well.

6 Bill Poser 07.13.12 at 11:10 pm

Well, it says he has a recording of “part” of his conversation with the officer, so it isn’t clear whether he has the relevant part.

I don’t see why these prohibitions of public drinking are necessary at all. Somebody drinking a beer in a public park or having wine at a picnic is not doing anything disturbing. It seems to me that the situations that are problematic would be adequately dealt with by laws against disturbing the peace, littering, vandalism, public drunkeness, etc.

7 theprez98 07.16.12 at 1:26 pm

Hopefully some enterprising attorney will offer to do some pro-bono work–he should not have to defend himself.

8 Greg 07.19.12 at 3:17 pm

This is news to the New York Times? Just goes to show how out of touch they are with real people and the real New York. Someone should explain to them that this happens many, many times every day, especially in poorer neighborhoods. The difference is that most poor people listen to the cops and move their drinking somewhere else. They don’t have the time or money to fight about it, and they understand that IT IS NOT A BIG DEAL. Also, poor people (unlike reporters for the Times) tend to actually be from the city, so they know before they sit on their stoops to drink that if the cops see them, the cops will tell them to stop.

The guy who got this ticket apparently didn’t know this, either because he’s not from the city or because he has lived a sheltered life. He is a law student and hence, presumably, argumentative, and he has decided to make a big deal out of very little. He doesn’t need a pro bono lawyer and doesn’t want one. He wants to fight it himself. He enjoys the fight and seems to have plenty of free time for it. Contrary to what he says so self-importantly to the reporter, his ticket IS just a “yuppie issue”; his fight against this $25 case is a law student’s lark; and whether he wins it or not, the police will continue to chase people back inside who are drinking on their stoops.

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