By Paul Bisceglio
Andrew Rausa celebrated Independence Day on a brownstone stoop in Boerum Hill last Wednesday like countless other Brooklynites: with friends, a grill and a few beers. When an unmarked police car stopped in front of them, he told the New York Times, he thought they might be in trouble for the grill.
Instead, they were all issued summonses for drinking in public.
“We were all kind of stunned for a second,” Rausa said to the Times. “It happened over the gate. It was a very tangible physical divide — when [the police] said the words ‘public property,’ it just didn’t make any sense.”
Convinced that his friend’s stoop was in fact private property, Rausa, a rising third year Brooklyn Law student, pulled up New York’s administrative code on his smart phone and argued with one of the officers that no law was broken.
According to Rausa, the officer replied, “I don’t care what the law says, you’re getting a summons.”
Rausa and his friends decided to plead not guilty to the charge instead of paying its $25 fine. They follow another Brooklyn resident, Kimber VanRy, who received the same summons for drinking on his stoop in 2008. His case was dismissed on a technicality.
Stoop drinking remains a gray area in New York’s open-container law, so the outcome of Rausa’s case may set a new precedent for future court rulings.
Rausa’s court date is to be determined. “My issue is not some yuppie, I-think-I’m-above-the-law issue,” he told the Times. “It’s the fact that I brought to the attention of the police officer that he was not in the right and he was not receptive at all.”
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