Primary tabs

Loitering is a criminal offense committed when a person remains in the same place or area for no apparent reason. The exact time and place restrictions that qualify an act as loitering differ by state, with many state penal codes further qualifying loitering as a crime in relation to other crimes like drug offenses or trespass. Many states also specifically introduced loitering statutes to further criminalize gang-related activity, but some of these statutes faced challenges for being unconstitutionally vague.

New York State’s Penal Code defines loitering as an offense against public order in §240.35:

“A person is guilty of loitering when he:
2. Loiters or remains in a public place for the purpose of gambling with cards, dice or other gambling paraphernalia; or
5. Loiters or remains in or about school grounds, a college or university building or grounds or a children's overnight camp as defined in section one thousand three hundred ninety-two of the public health law or a summer day camp as defined in section one thousand three hundred ninety-two of the public health law, or loiters, remains in or enters a school bus as defined in section one hundred forty-two of the vehicle and traffic law, not having any reason or relationship involving custody of or responsibility for a pupil or student, or any other specific, legitimate reason for being there, and not having written permission from anyone authorized to grant the same or loiters or remains in or about such children's overnight camp or summer day camp in violation of conspicuously posted rules or regulations governing entry and use thereof; or
6. Loiters or remains in any transportation facility, unless specifically authorized to do so, for the purpose of soliciting or engaging in any business, trade or commercial transactions involving the sale of merchandise or services, or for the purpose of entertaining persons by singing, dancing or playing any musical instrument.”

[Last updated in June of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]