A Statute Must Provide Sufficient Notice of What Conduct Is Prohibited
In People v. Bright (71 NY2d 376, 382), the Court discussed the requirement that "the statute must provide sufficient notice of what conduct is prohibited" saying, "the rationale underlying the requirement that a penal statute provide adequate notice is the notion 'that no man shall be held criminally responsible for conduct which he could not reasonably understand to be proscribed."
In Bright, the Court said that while a term (loitering) "has a commonly accepted meaning ... a statute that merely prohibits loitering, without more, is unconstitutionally vague as such a generalized law fails to distinguish between conduct calculated to cause harm and conduct that is essentially innocent, thereby failing to give notice of what conduct is prohibited." ( People v. Bright, supra, at 383-384.)
The Bright Court said that only when such laws concerning loitering are qualified by adding "for a specific illegal purpose" or "in a specific place of restricted public access" would such law be no longer constitutionally vague (at 384).
The terms in question in Bright (supra) used to define the proscribed conduct of "loitering" were at issue because "the Legislature may not criminalize conduct that is inherently innocent merely because such conduct is 'sometimes attended by improper motives' see, People v. Bunis, 9 NY2d 1, 4, since to do so would not fairly inform the ordinary citizen that an otherwise innocent act is illegal ... ' " men of common intelligence" should not be forced to guess at the meaning of the criminal law.' " (People v. Bright, supra, at 383.)