June 19, 2015

Assembly Toughens Penalty for Inappropriate Touching
on Public Transportation

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Chair of the Task Force on Women's Issues Aravella Simotas announced the passage of legislation to assure that a sentence of up to one year of imprisonment may be imposed for a person who makes inappropriate physical contact with another person while traveling on a mode of public transportation (A.4969-B, Simotas). This measure was also passed by the Senate and will be delivered to the Governor for consideration.

"Touching or groping someone against their will and consent is entirely unacceptable and demeaning," said Heastie. "Crowded public transit is no excuse for inappropriate and unwarranted sexual contact. Subjecting someone to such contact without consent is a serious crime, and our Penal Law should reflect that."

"No person should have to endure forced sexual contact while on public transit," said Simotas. "New Yorkers use public transit each and every day to get where they need to go, and no one should be afraid of being inappropriately touched or groped against their will when they get on the bus, train or subway."

The legislation would amend the Penal Law to make clear that it is a crime to subject another person to sexual contact, for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire and with intent to degrade or abuse, while on a public or private bus, train or subway car. The bill adds this new language to the crime of Forcible Touching, which some courts have interpreted as requiring proof of the use of force. The crime applies regardless of whether contact occurs directly or through clothing.

The bill comes in response to multiple incidents in which offenders took advantage of crowded subway trains in order to press against the private parts of young women, or press their own private parts against other persons. The offenders rubbed their bodies against the victims - who were unable to move away due to crowded conditions - then fled. The bill strengthens penalties for such offenses, specifying that such actions constitute forcible touching and should be punished as such.