Public defense chiefs applaud approval of bill repealing the crime of “loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution”

Tuesday, February 02, 2021 7:49 PM | Jennifer Van Ort (Administrator)

Albany, NY – The Chief Defenders Association of New York (CDANY) today commended state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo for approving legislation that would remove from the penal code a provision related to prostitution that has been routinely enforced in a manner that is discriminatory and without legal justification. (S1351/Hoylman; A3355/Paulin).

Laurette Mulry, president of CDANY said: “This bill would end the use of the penal code (Section 240.37) as a pretext for profiling and prosecuting women of color -- transgender women, in particular. In striking this provision from the law, the legislature serves justice and fairness.”

Penal Law Section 240.37 prohibits loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense. Historically, this law has been used to arrest people for a range of lawful conduct, such as “repeatedly” waving at a person in a vehicle, wearing a skirt that a police officer deemed too short, or merely speaking with someone on the street. The overwhelming majority of those arrested for the offense have been women – most often women of color and transgender women.

Enforcement of the statute has led to intrusive searches of those targeted by its enforcement – a patently unconstitutional practice that has resulted in degrading and dehumanizing women of color, transgender women, non-binary people of color, and the trafficking victims these laws are meant to protect.

CDANY was created by a group of leaders of public defense organizations from across New York State. The organization advocates for those who administer mandated legal representation programs, as well as their staff and their clients, in an effort to bring positive change to the criminal justice system. CDANY called for repeal of the so-called “Walking While Trans” offense in its legislative reform agenda for 2021.


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