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“Doubling Up” on a Turnstile: Can Two People Be Charged with Theft of Services (NY PL 165.15) for “Jumping” a Turnstile Together

Usually an offense perpetrated in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and other New York City locations, Theft of Services (New York Penal Law 165.15) is a crime that often results in a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) type arrest. While far from a felony crime, arrests for NY PL 165.15 are not without collateral and direct consequences. In fact, it is usually those people who have most at stake or those most in danger of bearing the brunt of those penalties are the individuals who are arrested. While a review of the Theft of Services statute, consequences of the crime and DAT process is available through the links peppered throughout this blog entry, the purpose of this entry is to address a recent Brooklyn Court decision relevant to the defense of NY PL 165.15.

Before proceeding, whether you received a New York City Desk Appearance Ticket for Theft of Services or you spent a night in jail waiting to see a judge, the crime of NY PL 165.15 is the same. That is, if you intentionally avoid or attempt to avoid paying for subway / public transportation by deception, stealth or some other method and you actually obtain or attempt to obtain the particular service, you are guilty of this misdemeanor crime. Collateral consequences to immigration or careers in finance aside, Theft of services is punishable by no more than one year in jail.

So, what if you are going through a turnstile and a friend “doubles up” with you. You have paid. He or she may not have, but can you also be charged with Theft of Services? While prosecutors must always prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the simple answer is “yes.” In People v. Joseph Kargbo, 2011KN087697, NYLJ 1202559252971, at *1 (Crim., KI, Decided June 6, 2012), a defendant, along with his co-defendant “doubled up” through a turnstile. The defendant sought dismissal of the complaint against him based on an earlier court decision. In that case, People v. Best, 12 Misc3d 597, 599, 817 NYS2d 895 (Crim Ct, Kings Cty, 2006), the court recognized “(i)t is possible that one person paid the fare and then a stranger jumped into the turnstile with the lawful passenger.” Despite this decision, Kargbo did not have luck, or the law, on his side.

According to the Court, no dismissal was warranted. In fact, People v. Lang, 14 Misc3d 869, 871-872, 831 NYS2d 862 (Crim Ct, NY Cty, 2007), held that “an accusatory instrument stating that a police officer who observes a defendant enter a subway station beyond the turnstiles…without paying the required fare, by doubling up with another person is facially sufficient.” Furthermore, the Court agreed with the Lang Court in that “one of two persons who go through a turnstile together must have paid the fare does not preclude both from being guilty of theft of services, as long as the person who actually paid acted with the intent that the nonpayer obtain public transportation service without payment of the lawful charge.”

Kargbo and Lang make it abundantly clear that Theft of Services, although a misdemeanor crime that is often DAT eligible, is nonetheless a serious offense. Whether you “double up” or “jump” a turnstile you will be prosecuted for a crime.

To educate yourself on Theft of Services in New York or the New York City Desk Appearance Ticket process, follow the links above or the links through the websites and blogs listed below.

Crotty Saland PC, a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, represents clients throughout the New York region.

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