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10 Laws You Should Know If You're in New York

Ah New York, there's really no way to fake the Empire State. And that's certainly true of its laws.

But even if you're not a native New Yorker and are just visiting or passing through, you should definitely have a basic understanding of New York's legal structures.

Don't be one of those out-of-town yokels who gets a ticket for texting while driving in Manhattan. Check out these 10 laws you should know if you're in New York:

  1. DWI threshold and consequences. You should avoid drinking and driving in any state, but a DWI in New York (where the legal blood-alcohol limit is 0.08 percent for drivers 21 and over) can lead to your license being suspended for three months. You may also have to attend mandatory alcohol education classes.
  2. Cell phone use while driving. Using your cell phone without a handsfree device while driving is illegal in New York, and it's been raining texting-while-driving tickets there since 2011.
  3. Divorce requirements. Despite a quickie "divorce hotel" set to open upstate, either you or your spouse still needs to be a New York resident for at least a year to divorce in New York.
  4. Marital property division. Especially if you're from west of the Mississippi, you may want to remember that you're not in a community property state anymore. New York is an equitable division state, meaning marital property is divided in divorce according to a judge's evaluation of what's fair.
  5. Comparative fault for injuries. When two persons share fault in a New York civil case for negligence, both parties may have their awards reduced based on the percentage they were at fault.
  6. Statutes of limitation. Some crimes have no deadline for prosecution (like murder), but you may only have three years in New York to file your personal injury claim.
  7. Will requirements. Will requirements are state-specific, and in New York you can't typically make wills orally, unless you're in active military service.
  8. Gambling laws. New York voters recently approved legislation to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in the Empire State, in addition to the five existing Indian-run casinos.
  9. Lemon law. New York tries to protect car buyers by requiring used car dealers to provide buyers with a warranty, which is pretty unusual.
  10. Age of majority & emancipation. The age of majority in New York is 18, and children must be at least 16 to be legally emancipated. Although with an adult or guardian, a 14-year-old can still sue in civil court.

Use these laws to stay safe and smart in the Empire State! To learn more, head over to FindLaw's section on New York Law.

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