SantaCon 2015, Yule Be Sorry: The 12 Most Likely Santa Crawl-Related Crimes

Happy Santa Claus laughing while standing outdoors at North Pole
Happy Santa Claus laughing while standing outdoors at North Pole

As SantaCon 2015 is only days away New York City is braced for the decent of thousands of Santas, Mrs. Clauses, Elves, Reindeer and even the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, which apparently will begin in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In past years, the New York City Police Department has taken an aggressive stance against the liquored-up merrymakers. Last year SantaCon organizers asked participants to tone down the revelry and stick to bars that opted into the festivities, kicking off in Times Square with a press conference on First Amendment Rights.


This year as in prior years, there are likely to be far more SantaCon-goers who are nice than naughty. Below are 12 most likely offenses and crimes that may be charged against SantaCon-goers. The good news for the naughty minority is that they will likely be given a summons, which in some cases may be answered by mail, or a Desk Appearance Ticket to appear in criminal court. Even if a crime listed below allows for a jail sentence, a prosecutor will offer a non-criminal disposition for most crimes if the person has never been arrested or arrested only once before, the records of which will eventually seal (New York does not have an expungement statute). For New York SantaCon-goers, oh, you better watch out for:

1. Open Container

Whatever alcohol you drink in the bar should stay in the bar. Under New York City Administrative Code Section 10-125(b), it is illegal to possess or drink an alcoholic beverage in a public place in the City. The famous block party or feast exception does not apply to SantaCon. And, just because the drink is in a Solo cup, if a police officer smells alcohol then an Open Container summons may be fair game. The good news is that Open Container is not a crime and it is punished by a fine of $25, which can be paid by mail. The worst case scenario is 5 days in prison, but that would take a heck of a Grinch-like judge.

2. Public Urination

After consuming a full keg, hit a Starbucks before relieving yourself in public. The punishment for public urination depends on the place of occurrence. If on a street, the New York City Sanitation Law applies, Section 118(4) of the New York City Administrative Code, which is punished by a fine of up to $250, unless the person is a serial public urinater. If inside the New York City Transit system, it is considered Disorderly Conduct under the Section 1050.7(a) of the Authority's Rules and is a violation punished by a fine of $25 or 10 days in jail. However, if in a New York City Park, public urination is a misdemeanor under Section 1-04(k) of Title 56 of the Rules of the City of New York and is punished by up to 90 days in jail or a $50 fine in a non-criminal proceeding.

3. Disorderly Conduct

Super-jolly Christmas caroling and other rowdy group behavior could lead to a charge of Disorderly Conduct, Penal Law Section 240.20, which is a violation, not a crime, that is punished by a fine up to $250 or up to 15 days in jail. The statute is extremely broad and covers everything from fighting behavior, making unreasonable noise or obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

4. Assault

Santa on Santa violence (or Elf on Elf and so on) is not only against the giving spirit of Christmas, the act could be a crime ranging from a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the nature of the injury and/or if any weapons were involved. The basic assault statute, Assault in the Third Degree, Penal Law Section 120.00, involves intentionally or recklessly causing a physical injury to another person. The crime is punished by up to 1 year in jail.

5. Public Lewdness

Keep the mistletoe-related activities indoors. For the more amorous Christmas cosplay participants, having sexual relations--defined in the broad, non-Clintonian sense--in public is considered a crime. Public lewdness, Penal Law Section 245.00, is a misdemeanor and is punished by up to 90 days in jail.

6. Theft of Services

It may look cool for Santa and his or her reindeer to jump a subway turnstile, but it is also a crime called Theft of Services. Under Penal Law Section 165.15(3), not paying for a ride on public transportation or in a taxi is a crime called Theft of Services. Yes, denying the New York City Transit Authority $2.75 is actually punished by up to 1 year in jail. Over-imbibing on spiked egg nog and dashing (or dining and dashing) from a bar or restaurant is also considered Theft of Services under Penal Law Section 165.15(2), which is also punished by up to 1 year in jail.

7. Driving While Intoxicated

If Santa has had too much to drink he or she should leave the sleigh where it is until completely sober. In New York, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1192, is prosecuted aggressively. With the proliferation of one-way rideshare car rentals like Car2Go, it may be tempting to leap ahead on the SantaCon route, but it is a terrible idea. The punishment for a first-time DWI conviction includes up to 1 year in jail, a license suspension or revocation up to 1 year and fines.

8. Criminal Mischief

Damaging property of another, whether by way of actually breaking something or graffiti is called Criminal Mischief, which is either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the damaged property. At the lowest level, Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, Penal Law Section 145.00, is a misdemeanor. If the property damaged exceeds $250 in value, the crime rises to Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, Penal Law Section 145.05, a class E felony.

9. Larceny

While last year, a West Coast Santa used SantaCon as natural camouflage and robbed a bank, taking even a can of beer from a deli is considered Petit Larceny, Penal Law Section 155.25, and is punished by up to 1 year in jail.

10. Criminal Possession of Marijuana

No, marijuana in not legal in New York, though small amounts have been decriminalized. As of November 2014, the NYPD no longer arrests people who possess less than 25 grams of marijuana that is in open view and not burning according to the NYPD's Marijuana Patrol Guide Directive. Instead, the NYPD will issue a summons for Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, Penal Law Section 221.05, which is punished by a fine of up to $100, unless there are priors. But, openly smoking marijuana or possessing more than 25 grams is a misdemeanor, Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree, Penal Law Section 221.10, and punished by up to 90 days in jail. Remember that if arrested for a crime police may search you and if they recover contraband it will lead to new charges.

11. Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance

Getting Santa's drink on, as long as inside a bar or restaurant, is the entire point of SantaCon. But possessing controlled substances like, in slang, snow, ice or brown sugar will lead to a criminal charge. Small amounts of a controlled substance is considered Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, Penal Law Section 220.03, and is punished by up to one year in jail. Again, if arrested for another reason, police may search you and there will be additional charges for contraband.

12. Flying a Drone

While the Santa sleigh drone is probably farfetched, with the proliferation of drones it is possible that a SantaCon attendee will take to the skies. The likely charge for operating a drone over a crowd is Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, Penal Law Section 120.20, a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 1 year is jail. So, the drone is best left at home.