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7/29/2008New York: Meter Maid Slapping Now a Felony
Meter maids receive the same special status as firemen and police officers when attacked in New York state.
Shoving a meter maid and interrupting the issuance of a parking ticket is now a felony in the state of New York. Legislation passed unanimously in the state assembly and senate took effect last Tuesday elevating any physical contact for which a meter maid can claim an injury to a Class D felony carrying a prison sentence of up to seven years. Lawmakers wanted to embolden the army of 2000 New York City employees responsible for bringing in $580 million in annual ticket revenue.
"The job of the Traffic Enforcement Agent is to maintain the smooth flow of traffic by issuing summons to vehicles parked illegally and, where required, by towing these vehicles," state Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-Westchester) explained in his bill justification. "No one likes to get a ticket. But the contempt some persons have for the job of the TEA or New York City marshal does not warrant the violent confrontational approach they have taken."
Meter maids received their first status boost in 1996 when they were given uniforms designed to resemble those worn by police officers, although Traffic Enforcement Agents have no police powers. The lack of status for meter maids is so severe that a police officer was accused in May of beating a meter maid to public applause. In response to this attitude, the Communications Workers of America Local 1182, the union representing meter maids, has worked for the past fifteen years to enact the felony punishment statute.
"Like police offices, firefighters, corrections office and certain other personnel, Traffic Enforcement Agents are classified as part of New York City's elite uniformed forces, pursuant to local law," union President James Huntley wrote in a letter to Governor David Paterson (D).
The new law bestows on meter maids the special protection originally applied only to firemen, paramedics and police officers operating in the course of their duties. For example, if a meter maid were to attack a motorist, the assault would only be classified as a felony if a "severe physical injury" resulted. The standard is reduced to anything considered an "injury" -- no matter how minor -- if the victim happens to be writing a ticket.
According to police, this change would have applied to about sixty reported meter maid assault cases last year. According to FBI statistics, ordinary New York City residents were subject to aggravated assault on 27,295 occasions over the same period.
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