Fortune-telling is Still Illegal in New York State

August 9th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Statue of Liberty and NYC skyline

Just a reminder to readers in New York State, fortune telling is still officially illegal there. And that goes for New York City as well as the rest of the state.

Of course you wouldn’t know it by the number of psychic shops in town, but according to an article in the New York Times last week, as well as the penal code itself, it’s true.

The Class B misdemeanor is listed as No.165.35 and reads as follows,

A person is guilty of fortune telling when, for a fee or compensation which he directly or indirectly solicits or receives, he claims or pretends to tell fortunes, or holds himself out as being able, by claimed or pretended use of occult powers, to answer questions or give advice on personal matters or to exorcise, influence or affect evil spirits or curses; except that this section does not apply to a person who engages in the afore described conduct as part of a show or exhibition solely for the purpose of entertainment or amusement.

The law was added to the code in 1967. It’s been around for a while, but obviously isn’t enforced too often. But just last month it was. Sylvia Mitchell of Manhattan was charged with illegal fortune telling.

It’s important to note that she was also charged with grand larceny for allegedly defrauding people of thousands of dollars by claiming to remove ‘blockages’ of some sort. If the charges are true, I find her actions reprehensible.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now, if someone tells you that you have a spiritual block or curse that they can remove for a fee, they’re very likely con artists. Don’t give them your money.

But this other business of being charged with something as broad as ‘fortune-telling’ is something legitimate readers should pay attention to. Even those who just read cards and make no claims to spiritual connections or occult powers.

The obvious way around the law is to do what people have been doing for years. They simply add the disclaimer ‘for entertainment and amusement purposes only’ to all marketing materials and websites, whether they mean it or not.

As it stands the law, and its loophole, seem to be a bit of a sham. Some readers are definitely entertaining, and even amusing, but that’s not why most people go to get readings. And everyone knows it.

And yet, if a reader admits that most, if not all their readings are meant to be serious, they could be arrested. It’s crazy.

Can’t we just use the laws we already have against fraud to protect people from scammers, whether their scam involves pretending to be a fortune-teller, priest, doctor, investment mogul, or any number of different occupations.

And for the people who believe that they can get or give advice from cards, or crystals or relatives passed on, let them, without fear that they’re engaged in a crime.

Being paid for a psychic or card reading should not be illegal. The Maryland High Court said it well in their decision to repeal a fortune-telling ban in Montgomery County, Maryland in 2010,

Fortunetelling may be pure entertainment, it may give individuals some insight into the future, or it may be hokum. People who purchase fortunetelling services may or may not believe in its value. Fortunetellers may sometimes deceive their customers. We need not, however, pass judgment on the validity or value of the speech that fortunetelling entails. If Montgomery County is concerned that fortunetellers will engage in fraudulent conduct, the County can enforce fraud laws in the event that fraud occurs.

The County need not, and must not, enforce a law that unduly burdens protected speech to accomplish its goal. Such a law will curtail and have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech.

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Salem Puts Temporary Hold on Issuing Fortune-Telling Licenses

July 19th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Witch Spoon ad from 1891

And more in legal news …

Last week, Salem City Council moved to temporarily suspend issuing new fortune-telling licenses. They want time to close a loophole in the existing ordinance.

According to the present law, in order to qualify for a fortune-telling license, 51 percent of a shop must be dedicated to the metaphysical, for instance tarot cards, crystals and the like.

But apparently, that’s not what’s been happening.

Councilor-at-large Joan Lovely says she herself is aware of two businesses that created separate corporations within the same establishment in order to get around the license requirements.

To stop this from happening, Lovely asked for the suspension of license issuance to allow the city solicitor time to recommend changes. She received unanimous support of the council.

None of them want too many fortune-telling business in town, but they’re also aware of how important they are to Salem.

Council expects to consider the proposed amendments at their first meeting in September. They’d like to settle the issue before October’s witchy season begins.

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Fortune-telling Legal in Bel Air, Maryland

May 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Seal of Harford County, Maryland

Harford County Seal

On Monday, Bel Air, Maryland joined the rest of Harford County in repealing its ban on fortune-telling.

By a vote of 4-1, the Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance that updates the definition of fortune-telling, taking out references to the occult, as well as designating acceptable zones of practice.

Going forward, psychic businesses will be permitted to operate in B-3 business zones. They must be 1,000 feet from schools or any other fortune-telling establishment.

The board tried to pass a similar amendment in March, but faced protests from residents opposed to the changes.

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Tobacco, Tattoos and Fortune Telling in Downtown Palm Springs?

May 2nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Palm Trees in Palm Springs

Palm Trees in Palm Springs

Palm Springs, California might soon allow fortune telling, body piercing, tattooing and the sale of tobacco in its downtown core.

Presently businesses offering such services are restricted to areas defined as professional zones. But that might soon change.

The Palm Springs Planning Commission voted unanimously last Wednesday to go forward with a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the present restrictions.

The Director of Planning Services, Craig Ewing, described the existing restrictions as outdated and feels they should be changed to reflect present day attitudes, not ideas from 20 to 50 years ago.

Businesses are already offering these services in the downtown area. Some have been there since before the present laws came into effect.

Some are technically legal, but just so. Like the store that sells tobacco in less than 50 percent of its area, so as to be considered a gift shop rather than a tobacco shop.

Other businesses are simply breaking the law.

It sounds like Palm Springs is just making what’s already happening, legal across the board.

The public hearing is expected to be in late May or early June.

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Fortune-Telling Law Updates …

March 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Seal of Carroll County, Maryland

Carroll County Seal

Some follow-ups in fortune-telling legal news …

It looks like the 38 year-old ban on fortune-telling in Carroll County, Maryland is about to end.

Last week, the repeal measure won approval from the Senate and House of Delegates.

It’s next step is to be reviewed by Governor Martin O’Malley.

Since the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last year that bans on fortune-telling businesses violate the First Amendment, such laws have been facing opposition across the country.

Harford County, Maryland repealed its 31-year old prohibition just last week.

And Meridian County, Mississippi is likely to follow suit.

The City Attorney’s office has been asked to draw up a repeal motion to be presented to Council in April.

And in Pompano, Florida, City Council is considering changing their law to allow fortune-telling businesses to operate in the general business districts.

Presently, such establishments are relegated to light-medium industrial areas, alongside strip clubs and pet hotels.

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