According to New York State Penal Code 155.25, “A person is guilty of petit larceny when he steals property,” a class A misdemeanor. This is what most city prosecutors charge people who sell MetroCard swipe with, but not anymore.

The State Court of Appeals asserted that the practice while unlawful, does not constitute a larceny, because the fare was never MTA property.

This ruling symbolically overturns the conviction of a New Jersey man from 2009, who served one day in jail. His defense attorney, Adrienne Hale, of the Legal Aid Society appealed the case and explains why it was so important:

“You are allowed to hand it around to your girlfriend; you are allowed to even swipe strangers in” at no charge, she added. “They allow certain sharing of the card, and then to pull back a certain subset of this, and call it petit larceny, is wrong.”

Imagine if all public defenders were this thorough.