Friday, May 09, 2008

So I was letting the air out of a tire of a car stopped at a red light...

I asked a half dozen or so NYPD about my bit of street justice. Get this: not one of them could think of any crime I committed!

A few other items of note:

1) If I were on private property, they could definitely get me for something. But I wasn't.

2) They too mentioned that I may have made the situation more dangerous. I'm not convinced I did, nor that that this makes my actions wrong.

3) A retired cop said he would get me for petty larceny if I took the valve cap. But I didn't. I pointed out I did in fact litter. But next time I could put the valve cap back on. And I could have been cited for not having a bell on my bike, but I didn't tell him this.

4) One officer said he would cite me for harassment. But he admitted this would be a bullshit charge that wouldn't stick. But as this is the only concrete criminal charge that anybody could come up with, I looked it up. I might have been guilty of "harassment in the second degree," a violation. Like littering. A non-arrestable offense if not committed in an officer’s presence. If you "repeat" the behavior (like doing two tires, I suppose), it goes up to "harrassment in the first degree," a misdemeanor. Here's the violation of harassment in the second degree:
A person is guilty... when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person... He or she engages in a course of conduct... which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose.
I, of course, plead my conduct was legitimate. But a judge might not agree.

A still have a feeling that there's something on the books that I violated. But nothing that anybody can think of.

So while I'm not saying it's legal or good to let the air out of a car tire while the car is stopped at a red light. And I'm not saying it would be worth a night in jail on some B.S. charge. But I still think I did the right thing. And I'm just sayin' it doesn't seem to be illegal. I'm just sayin'...


Anonymous said...

I'm loving that you wanted to do something more than just complain about someone who was so obviously creating a serious public danger.

Like some of the other people who've commented here, though, I'm horrified at the thought of you tampering with this woman's car WHILE SHE WAS DRIVING IT! It is most certainly illegal--I can't imagine what the NYPD folks you spoke to were thinking. You were attempting to disable her vehicle. WHILE SHE WAS DRIVING IT! Having read your blog for a while, I am astonished that you don't realize the seriousness of your actions.

Since you asked, the difference between what you did and taking the keys away from a drunk person is that you didn't keep her from operating her vehicle in a dangerous manner. You actually made it far more dangerous for her to do so.

PCM said...

You would think it would be illegal. But apparently it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is illegal. One could easily be cited for criminal mischief, criminal tampering, reckless endangerment, and reckless endangerment of property. These are serious infractions. And it's made even more serious (than, for example, slashing the tires or breaking the tail lights of a parked car) because this is an action being performed with the intent of disabling a vehicle while a person is operating the vehicle.

This action was clearly intended to cause damage to the driver's car, inconvenience or even harm the driver, and shows reckless disregard for the safety of third parties.

PCM said...

I simply don't believe a flat tire is that endangering. But you may have me on "criminal tampering in the third degree." The other offenses involves monetary damage, so they don't apply. But I sense your offense regarding what I did is based more on the morality of my actions (I did the wrong thing) than criminal wrong doing.

What if I had succeeded in disabling her (lets not forget) already dangerous car? Leaving aside the criminal act of slashing all four tires, would *that* have been morally correct?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't meaning to talk about moral correctness. But yes, I think disabling a vehicle while it is being driven is morally reprehensible as well. (Perhaps more so than legally!)

As to monetary damage, if she needed to replace her tire or her rims then those codes apply. If she lost control of her car to a further degree as a result of your actions and damaged the vehicle or other property, then we're talking even more monetary damage, or even assault charges. (If she died, or killed someone else, then we're talking manslaughter.)

Here's the point-- you don't need to "believe" that a flat tire is endangering in order for your actions to be criminal. Nor do your actions have to actually result in damage. You admitted that you wished to disable her car (and even mused that it was unfortunate that you didn't). That is a criminal act.

I can't decide whether my alarm is more over your moral or legal effrontery, since in this case I think the law adequately and appropriately mirrors my morality. But I think I'm more alarmed that you not only see no problem with what you did, but you seem to want to be applauded for it.

Considering it further... you have a posting here about the NY Times article about cyclists spraying "no car" stencils on bike lanes. Certainly, it's illegal. (I assume the graffiti code would cover it.) And yet I wasn't horrified at the idea of folks doing this. Though it is criminal, it shows especial concern for the safety of others, rather than reckless disregard.

So, perhaps it is at the core a moral issue for me. Your celebratory attitude toward the act was what first disturbed me. It seems trite to say, but what if you really had disabled her vehicle? What if, as she attempted to drive what she didn't realize was a functionally-compromised car, she had caused damage to it? Or worse, to herself or someone else? I'm astonished that you don't see that as a possible outcome of your tampering.

We're debating vigilantism here, I guess. I believe you exacerbated an already dangerous situation, and you have neither the imperative nor the right to do that. There's civil disobedience and there's community activism, and then there's taking the law into your own hands. I'm scared of your bravado!

Anonymous said...

It's actually considered criminal mischief in most places. Not a serious offense, but one they could legitimately charge you with.

I actually ended up here because I was googling the illegality of letting the air out of someone's BIKE tires, as someone did that to me this morning after a dispute about where I was locking up my bike. Apparently he felt that leaving his bike lock attached to a guard rail in a public garage entitled him to that spot for as long as his lock was there, and was unhappy that I had parked and locked my bike there. I went back to check an hour later and what do you know, my front tire was nearly flat.

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