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Saggy Pants May Be 'Foolish,' but They Don't Disturb Public Tranquility, N.Y. Judge SaysSaggy pants that hang from the thighs and expose underclothes may be ridiculous, but wearing them is not illegal, a New York judge has ruled. Julio Martinez was charged with disorderly conduct in 2009 because, as an arresting officer wrote, he wore "his pants down below his buttocks ... potentially showing private parts." In dismissing the case, Judge Ruben Franco found that the summons was "devoid of any allegation" that Martinez's clothing choices "disturbed the public tranquility or violated the public order."
New York Law Journal2010-07-28 12:00:00 AM
Wearing saggy pants that hang from your thighs and expose your underwear may be ridiculous, but it is not illegal, a Bronx judge has ruled.
"While most of us may consider it distasteful, and indeed foolish, to wear ones pants so low as to expose the underwear ... 'people can dress as they please, wear anything, so long as they do not offend public order and decency,'" Criminal Court Judge Ruben Franco wrote in People v. Martinez, 2009SX048784.
In April 2009, defendant Julio Martinez received a summons because, as the arresting officer wrote, Martinez wore "his pants down below his buttocks exposing underwear [and] potentially showing private parts."
The sole charge was disorderly conduct and the sole factual allegation was that the defendant wore his pants troublesomely low.
Penal Law §240.20(7) defines "disorderly conduct" as intentionally "caus[ing] public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creat[ing] the risk thereof [by creating] a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act serving no legitimate purpose."
Franco held that the summons was facially insufficient and dismissed the case against Martinez.
"This accusatory instrument is devoid of any allegation that Mr. Martinez's conduct in wearing his pants below the waistline, disturbed the public tranquility or violated the public order," the judge wrote. "The issuance of this summons appears to be an attempt by one police officer to show his displeasure with a particular style of dress."
Franco's decision provides a brief history of sagging pants and the efforts to legislate against them. The judge noted the theory that the sagging style originated in U.S. prisons, where uniforms are often too big and belts are typically forbidden.
The judge cited a Wikipedia article, which defines "sagging" as "a manner of wearing trousers ... below the waist, hanging below the waist area and therefore revealing much of the underwear."
Lawmakers in Atlanta and Louisiana, among other places, have proposed banning the low-slung style. In New York, however, the right to wear pants as low as one wishes, so long as decency is not offended, remains unabated, the judge concluded.
"The Constitution still leaves some opportunity for people to be foolish if they so desire," Franco wrote, quoting People v. Gorman, 274 N.Y. 284.
Brian Kelly of the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx represented Martinez. Kelly could not be reached for comment.