To the NYPD, Condom Possession Means You Are a “Prostitute”

March 5, 2013 | Julia Dawidowicz

Did you know that possession of a single condom is all it takes to land you in jail for prostitution? Here. In New York City. Especially if you’re a trans, low-income, or a person of color.

Molly Crabapple wrote an enlightening Vice post on the ridiculously broad and dubious laws regarding “prostitution”-related arrests. While it takes somewhat concrete evidence to arrest someone for “prostitution” proper, it’s a whole lot easier for a cop to nab you for “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.” So-called probable cause consists of everything from being outside for extended periods, to wearing a tight t-shirt, to having condoms or pocket change in your purse… In other words, if a cop has a sudden whim to arrest you for this pseudo-crime, there are virtually infinite ways they can lawfully support doing so.

The absurd paradox here is the same condom considered “evidence” by the NYPD may well have been provided by the NYC Dept. of Health: the city distributes nearly 40 million of them per year. In some cases, cops will confiscate a suspect’s condoms in lieu of making an arrest.

Like most other forms of legal trickery, this condom-as-probable cause loophole exists somewhat under the radar because it’s typically used to target those with the least amount of power and status. Even worse than its criminalization of non-“prostitutes” is how the law discourages actual sex workers from carrying protection, further endangering their health.

Learn how you can support the End the Use of Condoms as Evidence bill here.