There is an interesting case out of Mansfield Township, New Jersey where Matthew Argintar was arrested for dressing as a superhero and going to the Home Depot. Agintar, 23, was wearing a small mask, elbow and arm pads, bulletproof vest, and a cape when he appeared at the store. The charges caught my eye: disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of handcuffs.
As far as I know, there is not a criminal law prohibiting citizens from dressing as superheros, though cities like D.C. have moved to criminalize the wearing of masks in some circumstances.
Argintar is facing up to seven months in county jail for the offense. However, wearing a costume alone cannot be the grounds for disorderly conduct in my view. Accounts of witnesses say that Argintar was asking people if they needed help. It was the response to his appearance that caused the disorder with some people running to their cars. Argintar insisted that he was merely trying to “inspire hope.”
I am also surprised to see that it is illegal to possess a pair of handcuffs. I have found references to handcuffs being illegal but I could only find New Jersey Statutes 2C:39-9.2 criminalizing the sale of handcuffs to minors. I am not sure why handcuffs themselves would be a crime. Perhaps one of our Jersey friends can help. If it is a crime, it would appear arbitrarily enforced since you can buy handcuffs easily from sources that range from novelty stores to the Internet. I suspect most people are unaware of any law criminalizing possession of handcuffs.
Update: TomMll below supplied the language: New Jersey Statutes 2C:39-3k. Handcuffs. “Any person who knowingly has in his possession handcuffs … under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as handcuffs may have, is guilty of a disorderly persons offense. A law enforcement officer shall confiscate handcuffs possessed in violation of the law.” The use of “under circumstances not manifestly appropriate” in a criminal statute is facially ridiculous and should not be enforced as void for vagueness. It would be difficult to come up with language that is more undefined and vague. Agintar should challenge the statute and do a real service for the public.
Of course, in California, Joan Rivers can handcuff herself to a shopping cart and use a bullhorn without an arrest.
Of course, the arrest simply comes with the territory for the Dark Knight:
Batman: You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things. Because I’m not a hero, not like Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be.
Lt. James Gordon: No, no, you can’t! You’re *not*!
Batman: I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be. . . .
Lt. James Gordon: They’ll hunt you.
Batman: You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me. Set the dogs on me.
[Gordon takes the axe to the bat light]
Batman: Because that’s what needs to happen.
Yet, who would have thought it would all play out at a Home Depot?