This is the crux of a new lawsuit against the NYPD via Brooklyn resident Jessica Krigsman, who was unjustly taken into custody last summer for sunning herself topless in Calvert Vaux Park. Even though she was “ordered to put her shirt on,” as the Daily News reports, then told to “stop mouthing off” before officers forced her shirt back onto her body and hauled into custody for five hours, what she was doing was, in fact, completely legal (a fact of which she reminded the officers before they went ahead and arrested her anyway).
This has been the case ever since a 1992 court decision, People V. Santorelli ruled that in New York, it is legal for a woman to be topless (and specifically, to bare “that portion of the breast which is below the top of the areola”) anywhere that it’s also legal for a man to do so.
Presumably finding this to be the case, police instead slapped Krigsman with an obscure summons for “Obstruction of a Sitting Area,” which was dismissed a few months later. She is now seeking damages for “false arrest, malicious prosecution and violations of constitutional rights,” and is certainly not the first (or probably last) woman in Brooklyn to be wrongly arrested in the 20 years this has been legal, though police have, occasionally, made specific efforts to be sensitive to the issue. In any case, if you’re a woman and you have a particularly strong desire to walk around Brooklyn without a shirt before the weather gets prohibitively cold, know that you have the moral and legal high ground to do so. You may get arrested anyway, but you will have it.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.