Is it legal to throw up on a train on the New York subway system?
July 24, 2013 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Is it legal to throw up on a train on the New York subway system? Inspired by something that happened to Griphus from the We Have Such Movies to Show You podcast.
posted by Bugbread to Law & Government (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have seen many people throw up on trains, but have never seen anyone arrested for it. No one wants to be The Sick Passenger.
posted by mochapickle at 12:06 PM on July 24, 2013

Why or how would that be illegal? It SUCKS, but it's not illegal to be sick.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:07 PM on July 24, 2013

No, it's just very, very, very unfortunate.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:08 PM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: Because of the involuntary nature of throwing up, I would not imagine it is illegal (and having been witness to such events more times than I care to recount, I cannot recall a single incident where police became involved or anything).

But, depending on the circumstances, you could certainly get arrested for public intoxication.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:08 PM on July 24, 2013

I also suppose that if you were doing it very deliberately, like making yourself vomit on the seats or whatever, they could maybe get you for damaging public property.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:13 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you are drunk, you could get a public intoxication charge.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:15 PM on July 24, 2013

I have been on a train in Chicago that contained both a cop and an actively vomiting girl. Cop interacted with her no differently than everyone else on the train did, which was to quickly get as far as possible in the other direction. She got off at the next stop, and as far as I'm aware that was sum total of her interaction with the cop.
posted by phunniemee at 12:20 PM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: Public vomiting is not a crime in any jurisdiction of which I am aware. Indeed, there is a very strong argument that criminalizing it would be an unconstitutional violation of due process, as it penalizes an involuntary action. As deliberate vomiting would probably be punishable under at least one of several other statutes, there's no real incentive to penalize vomiting as such.
posted by valkyryn at 12:20 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

RE: vomit penalties

For the record, there is a $50 "clean up charge" for vomiting in a Chicago cab, but I know from experience that if one is vomiting blood and an ambulance is called (that is, you are obviously quite ill and not intoxicated), you will neither be charged nor will the cabbie do anything but try to calm you down until the paramedics or your partner arrive (because some cabbies are actually angels in disguise)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:24 PM on July 24, 2013 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have made it clear that I know that even if there is some law on the books, it's not the kind of thing that a policeman is actually going to arrest you for. I was just curious if there were A) some sort of blue law that applied, or B) it was a technical violation of a non-blue law (littering, etc.) that was always disregarded.
posted by Bugbread at 12:26 PM on July 24, 2013

Everything is illegal if someone wants to arrest you -- breach of peace and disorderly conduct laws are intentionally vague for just this reason. But as valkyryn says, there's no way that a law banning vomiting in and of itself would be enforceable.
posted by Etrigan at 12:34 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I see it all the time, with the thugs in the car openly mocking the puker.
posted by brujita at 12:50 PM on July 24, 2013

I would think it's not illegal...otherwise babies and little kids with zero control would be arrested left and right.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:58 PM on July 24, 2013

Anecdatum: I have thrown up in a NYC subway car in which police officers were present. I was not arrested. (The officers were unperturbed, and I got off at the next stop.)
posted by ocherdraco at 1:07 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm very dubious about the idea expressed by some here that it would be inherently impossible to make conducting a necessary bodily emission illegal. Urination and defecation are both necessary, but it is illegal to do them in most public places despite the fact that the law doesn't include provisions for a venue.
posted by threeants at 1:17 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I vomited in a NYC subway station once. I honestly don't see how it would be illegal, given that you can do so many other things on the subway there.
posted by signondiego at 1:28 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Urination and defecation are both necessary, but it is illegal to do them in most public places

Unless you are extremely ill or a very small child, however, both of them are reasonably voluntary. I seriously doubt that a seizure victim who voids his/her bowels during a seizure will be arrested for public defecation (though, given the way the law is tending in many of our backwards, medieval United States, I guess it probably isn't beyond possibility).
posted by like_a_friend at 1:29 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I once threw up on a train. I did not get in any sort of trouble, though it was extremely not fun.


- This was about a dozen years ago, so for all I know it is now officially illegal to throw up on the train, but didn't used to be.

- I am white, middle class, and female. I was 19-20 years old at the time, and I was sober. I was coming home from some kind of mothers' day garden party/brunch/thing in Murray Hill which I'd left due to not feeling well. As such, I was dressed quite nicely.

- This happened on a Sunday afternoon, on a mostly empty car on the A.

- I don't think there were police officers present (and this was before the 9/11 related securification/militarization of everything in the transit system), but there was an MTA worker in my car. He gave me a bandanna out of his pocket to wipe my face with and looked generally irritated with me, but did not involve the authorities or even chastise me. Just "ugh why do people have to be sick on MY TRAIN jeez" sort of behavior.
posted by Sara C. at 1:29 PM on July 24, 2013

Mod note: Folks, fairly specific question, keep the answers focused and don't get into a general discussion about transit puking please.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:51 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is now time to talk about the time I met Jay Z. (this is a legit answer about puking on the MTA in NYC, fyi mr. mod)

I was working as a merchandiser for Macy's parent company, Federated Merchandising Group. This meant that I was basically responsible for coordinating the assortments in the 5 chains of department stores (like Macy's) that Federated operated at that time. I worked in the men's tailored clothing department, so part of my job involved launch events of new lines, which usually took place in the Macy's offices above the Herald Square flagship 2 blocks down.

A few months after I started, Fubu was launching their suit line, and that meant Daymond John, Russell Simmons, and a few various rap elite and up-and-comers were in attendance to the fashion show in the store. Afterwards they had a bus for everyone (well, Rolls Royces for the big G's) to shuttle us on down to Jay's club, the Canal Room.

This was my first kind of big open bar event in the new position and I had really never had carte blanche with top shelf liquor, so I started um...making up for lost time. Wasn't the wisest thing in the world because it wasn't long after that I found myself flirting with some older woman who I came to realize was the head of HR for Macy's. I exited that as gracefully as I could and promptly found myself sitting in the VIP with Russell Simmons.

I had kind of a reputation with college friends for turning into something of a somewhat entertaining comedian when inebriated and have a vague recollection of this occurring at the club, which may explain how I ended up where I did. At some point I realized the guy sitting across from me was Jay Z, and I remember him telling me I was a "funny kid." I'm not sure if that was funny good, or funny bad, but that was what Jay Z said to me.

And that was the last thing I remembered. Instead of getting a cab home I apparently decided to hop on the subway, because the next thing I remember I wake up, standing on the train, to some punk kid with his hands in my suit pocket trying to get my cell phone. So I popped him one, and that's when the kid standing next to him that I couldn't really see clearly popped me one.

And the next thing I remember a very pretty young NYPD officer was slapping me awake. I was on the floor of the car and bleeding (not to my knowledge at the moment) and my dinner was EVERYWHERE. Which was very much to everyone's knowledge at the moment. I asked her if I was in trouble and she told me I was going to the hospital.

So, as far as my direct experience goes, no, its not illegal. Bleeding may help.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:04 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

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