Doubts on Hate-Crime Laws Amid Rash of Anti-Gay Crimes

A spate of anti-gay attacks in Manhattan last month renewed interest in hate crimes enforcement, leading one lawmaker, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, to call for a review of whether the bias-crime statutes are as strong as they could be (and a public hearing about it next week).

Opponents Of Over-Policing Target 'Vague Laws'

You lose your balance as the A train stops short, brushing against the newspaper and bag of a fellow commuter as you regain your footing. Have you just stumbled, or have you committed a class A misdemeanor, Jostling? Were a police officer to apply the statute's vague wording and arrest you, and a judge to agree with the officer's interpretation, you could be facing up to one year in prison.

Jostling, along with Criminal Trespassing, Disorderly Conduct, Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in a Prostitution Offense and several other New York State laws contain broad and equivocal wording. Punishments for the above violations and crimes can potentially including jail time and heavy fines. Timothy Sandefur, the principal attorney of The Pacific Legal Foundation, condemns the serious consequences resulting from many vague laws on the federal and state level. "Vagueness," he wrote in a 2010 Forbes op-ed "turns the law into a sword dangling over citizens' heads."