What was the New York mask law?


Penal Law 240.35(4) Repealed by L 2020, ch 98, § 1, eff June 13, 2020. 2020 NY Assembly-Senate Bill A10446-A, S8415. Bill Jacket available in New York State Archives.

Assembly Introducer’s Mem in Support of 2020 NY Assembly Bill A10446, enacted as L 2020, ch 98:

Historically, loitering laws have been used for no legitimate public

safety purpose. New York State's statute dates back to the 1845 rent

riots. Since then, the law has been used to criminalize protest, as well

as to arrest New Yorkers "masquerading" as a different gender.


Further, in a time when masks and other face coverings are recommended

for health reasons and the Governor has mandated the use of face

coverings in certain situations, it's necessary to repeal the statute

that prohibits the use of masks in public to avoid confusion. It's

essential to ensure that New Yorkers know that they cannot be prosecuted

for following the Governor's guidance.

Repealed Text

“4. Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities; or”.

Derivation and Legislative History

Subd. 4.  Penal Law 1909   §§ 710 ,  711 .  Said § 710 was from Penal Code 1881 § 452.  Said § 711 was from Penal Code 1881 § 453.

L 1854, ch 3 “An Act to prevent persons appearing disguised and armed.” Passed Jan 28, 1845.

“New York's first anti-mask law, “An Act to prevent persons appearing disguised and armed,” was enacted in 1845, as sections 1 and 6 of Chapter 3 of the Laws of 1845. … The purpose of the “Act” was to quell the “anti-rent riots,” an armed insurrection by farmers in the Hudson Valley. “This particular statute was addressed to a specific group of insurrectionists who, while disguised as ‘Indians,’ murdered law enforcement officers attempting to serve writs upon the farmers. The ‘Indians' were in fact farmers, who as part of their costumes, wore women's calico dresses to further conceal their identities.””
People v Aboaf, 187 Misc 2d 173, 183 [Crim Ct 2001] quoting People v Archibald, 58 Misc2d 862 (App Term, 1st Dept 1968 dissenting opinion)


  • Last Updated Jun 25, 2024
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