Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What is a "Public Place?"

You have probably all seen the video in which a policeman threatens to ticket a guy for washing a car in the driveway of his own home. In the course of the video, the policeman explains that the guy's violation is: washing a car in a "Public Place". But what is a public place?

You can find several legal definitions of  "public place" on the Web, and some of these definitions happen to agree with what the policeman said: A public place is any place visible to the public (I am paraphrasing). Most definitions of Public Place are more intuitive: they define a space in which public activities occur, because the public has direct access.

Obviously, what matters is how Garden City, NY defines "Public Place". (I understand that Garden City is where this video occurred.)  I found their legal definition on the internet! Here it is, and Garden City's definition implies that the policeman was wrong, because the car washing did not occur in a public place. Here's a copy of their definition:

PUBLIC PLACE
Any public street, road or highway, alley, lane, sidewalk, crosswalk or other public way, or any publicresort, place of amusement, park, playground, public building or grounds appurtenant thereto, school building or school grounds, public parking lot or any vacant lot.

I wonder whether all this viral publicity will make Garden City change their definition of "public place" to make car-washing in a driveway illegal.
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