Body Armor Can Lead to Criminal Charges in New York

February 28, 2023

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

On May 14, 2022, 10 people were murdered and three were injured by a shooter at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York. During the shooting, the perpetrator was wearing a bullet-proof vest. When an armed security guard shot him, the vest stopped the bullet from harming the shooter. In response to this awful event, New York legislators quickly passed laws banning the wearing of such body armor.


Unlawful Wearing of Body Armor

Under the new laws, which became effective July 6, 2022, it is a crime in most cases to purchase, possess, sell, or exchange body vests or similar items. It is an E felony offense if a person “commits any violent felony offense … while possessing a firearm, rifle or shotgun” while wearing a bullet-proof vest. When arrested for this charge, it is punishable by up to four years in state prison. Additionally, fines could be imposed as well as parole and/or probation.

In defining body armor, the law refers to “any product that is a personal protective body covering intended to protect against gunfire, regardless of whether such product is to be worn alone or is sold as a complement to another product or garment.”


Purchase or Sale of Body Armor

Legislators also passed laws regulating the purchase and sale of bullet-proof vests. Under these laws, sellers are required to confirm someone is employed or engaged in a profession which is permitted by law to use a body armor in the course of their employment.

In this regard, a purchaser must provide a seller a professional license, employment card, or other credential issued by an employer. In the absence of such proof, body armor sellers are required to use specific forms to confirm that the purchaser is someone permitted to wear bullet-proof vests for their employment.


Professions Authorized to Wear Body Armor

Under the law, certain professions may purchase and wear bullet-proof vests for use during their jobs. These professions are designated by the Department of State in accordance with Executive Law § 144-a. So far, persons who are permitted to wear such vests for their jobs include:

  • Police officers, peace officers, or federal law enforcement officers
  • Persons in military service
  • Armored car guards
  • Security guards
  • Firefighters
  • Emergency medical technicians, paramedics, or ambulance drivers and attendants
  • Firearms dealers or body armor retailers/salespersons
  • Private investigators
  • Building safety inspectors or code enforcement officers
  • Firearms instructors
  • Professional journalists or newscasters
  • Nuclear security officers
  • Process servers

Additionally, there are a number of other professions which may be added to this list. Specifically, the Department of State is reviewing (as of Feb. 28, 2023):

  • Professionals dealing with installation, service, or maintenance of security and fire alarm systems
  • Animal control officers
  • Federal firearms licensed dealers
  • Range safety officers




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