New York City Laws You Should Know

Avoid unnecessary trouble by knowing the rules in NYC.

NYPD Mounted Police Unit in New York City
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One of the easiest ways to ruin your trip to New York City is to find yourself in trouble with the police -- particularly if you didn't even know you were doing something wrong in the first place. We've put together a quick and dirty guide to New York City laws to help you stay out of trouble and enjoy your visit.

  • 01 of 06
    NYC liquor store
    Billie Grace Ward / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    The legal drinking age in New York City is 21.

    Liquor cannot be served by bars and restaurants in New York City from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. daily, though some bars/restaurants choose to have their "last call" earlier than 4 a.m.

    New York City liquor laws limit the sale of wine and spirits to liquor stores, but beer is available in convenience stores, delis and grocery stores.

    In New York City, it is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in public places.

  • 02 of 06

    New York City Smoking Laws You Should Know

    Bryant Park NYC no smoking
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    New York City isn't the most friendly place for smokers. Under the Smoke Free Air Act, smoking is illegal in most indoor places, including bars, restaurants, clubs, offices, and many other public areas. In 2011, New York City Council expanded the reach of the law to ban smoking in parks, beaches, pools and other areas controlled by the New York City Parks Department.

    Cigar/cigarette bars where they sell tobacco are excluded from the restrictions on smoking and allow smoking indoors.

    Visitors should know that New York City has very high taxes on cigarettes. In many places, e-cigs are held to the same restrictions as regular cigarettes and cannot be smoked inside.

  • 03 of 06

    New York City Gun Laws You Should Know

    Policeman Gripping Pistol at Thirty Fourth Precinct Gun Exchange
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    New York State and New York City have some of the strictest guns laws in the United States. New York State does not honor licenses or permits from other states and permits from other areas of New York state don't necessarily apply within New York City. For complete details of New York City/State gun laws, check out NRA/ILA Firearms Laws for New York State. Bear in mind that NYC has restrictions that apply within city limits that might be different than the laws in the state at large.

  • 04 of 06

    New York City Drug Laws You Should Know

    Man Rolling Marijuana Cigarette
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    Although possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana is decriminalized in New York, possession or use of marijuana in public is a misdemeanor offense and can result in arrest. Possession of (used) marijuana paraphernalia is also a criminal misdemeanor.

    In 2009, the mandatory minimums associated with the Rockefeller Drug Laws were removed, giving judges more discretion in sentencing.

    New York State has a Medical Marijuana Program.

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  • 05 of 06
    Speed Limit Reduces To 25 MPH In New York City
    Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    In New York City, you cannot make a turn on red, unless there is a sign indicating otherwise. This can be a hard rule to remember if you live somewhere that allows right turns on red, but be cautious, because this is a common reason for ticketing. You'll also want to pay attention to parking meter rules and street signs to avoid parking tickets.

  • 06 of 06

    New York City Nudity Laws You Should Know

    New York City Exteriors And Landmarks
    Ben Hider / Getty Images

    Public lewdness is a misdemeanor and exposure of private/intimate parts is a violation, but the restrictions do not apply when breastfeeding infants or performing in a play, exhibition, show or entertainment.

    In New York City, alcohol cannot be served at all-nude strip clubs.