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New York City Laws Every Visitor Should Know Before They Arrive

New York City Laws Every Visitor Should Know Before They Arrive

New York City is truly the city that never sleeps. For first time visitors to Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen and the greater NYC, the rich diversity of sights and sounds can be overwhelming. But all the fun can instantly go up in smoke if you find yourself running afoul of laws you weren’t aware of.

That’s why it’s crucial that before you start your journey to the Big Apple, you get to understand all the key laws that you have to be careful not to break. Here’s a quick guide to help you do just that.

  1. Alcohol Laws

New York’s legal drinking age is 21 years. Between 4 am and 8 am every day, no liquor can be served by restaurants and bars in NYC. In fact, as a precaution, some bars will stop serving alcohol well before 4 am. The city’s liquor laws restrict the sale of spirits and wine to liquor stores but you can buy beer from grocery stores, delis and convenience stores.

Most important to remember, it’s illegal to consume alcoholic drinks in public places.

  1. Smoking Laws

NYC’s smoking laws make it clear that this is isn’t one of the friendlier places for lighting up. For years now, smoking has been prohibited in nearly all public indoor locations and that includes bars, clubs, restaurants and offices. In 2011, the city went further by banning smoking in beaches, parks, pools and any other area that is under the jurisdiction of the New York City Parks Department.

Even e-cigarettes haven’t been spared. As from 2017, the same restrictions that govern regular cigarettes apply to e-cigs. You can still buy vape juice online and smoke in the privacy of your home though.

  1. Gun Laws

In the wake of horrific mass shootings, there’s been robust debate across the US in recent years on just how strict gun laws should be. NYC is one place where that debate seems almost decisively settled.

So strict are the gun laws that the city doesn’t even automatically honor permits issued by other regions within New York state. Naturally, permits or licenses from other states aren’t accepted either. Due to this hostility, it’s best for visitors to avoid bringing over their guns unless some extraordinary set of circumstances demand that they do so.

  1. Marijuana Laws

NYC is one of the most progressive places in America so perhaps it isn’t surprising that possession of small amounts of marijuana (25 grams or less) is decriminalized. Carrying larger amounts though or using marijuana in public areas is a misdemeanor and can lead to arrest.

On the plus side for cannabis users, the mandatory minimums that were part of the city’s drug laws were abolished in 2009. That means judges can be a lot more lenient on offenders. Of course, you don’t want to find yourself before a judge for whatever reason. Always err on the side of caution by not doing anything whose legality you aren’t sure of.

Avoid unnecessary headache and inconvenience by understanding and adhering to these rules of NYC.


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