If you feel unsafe walking the streets of Queens unprotected, having a tool like pepper spray at your disposal may grant you a needed sense of security. It is portable, easily accessible and simple to use. Yet is it dangerous? Pepper spray works by irritating the skin, eyes, mouth and throat of a would-be assailant. Yet while its exposure is not known to have lasting effects, the debilitating potential it presents requires that it be used responsibly. Thus, the state of New York has enacted laws regulating its use.
Section 265.20.14 of New York’s Penal Code groups pepper spray in with “self-defense spray devices,” which it defines as “a pocket sized spray device which contains and releases a chemical or organic substance which is intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or disability…containing tear gas, pepper or similar disabling agent.” The state lists the possession of these devices as being among those scenarios exempt from prosecution for weapons charges. However, it also clarifies that this exemption only applies if you carry pepper spray for the purposes of self-defense in scenarios where the use of force to protect yourself is warranted by law. The law also requires this notification to be printed on any such devices that you purchase.
Furthermore, the law does not allow you to possess pepper spray (or any other type of self-defense spray device) in any of the following scenarios:
- If you are under the age of 18
- If you have been previously convicted of any type of assault or felony in the state
- If you have been convicted of any of the aforementioned offenses in another state
If, based on the opinion of a physician or mental health professional, you haven determined to be incompetent, you may also be prohibited from possessing such a device.