Robert Schiavelli of Rockville Center, N.Y., says he never thought laughing could get him in trouble with the law.
“I was laughing out the window. I was laughing out the window of my own house, and they gave me a ticket,” Schiavelli told ABC News.
Schiavelli was slapped with two summonses for disturbing the peace after police said he was laughing too loudly in his front yard.
Police responded to Schiavelli’s home Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 after neighbors complained that his laughs could be heard across the driveway.
Schiavelli, who is considered disabled because of neurological impairments, says the neighbors mock him, and he uses laughter as a defense mechanism.
“They kept staring at me. He kept eye-balling me … and mocking me,” Schiavelli said.
That’s when Rockville Center police showed up to issue the 42-year-old two tickets, including one for “disturbing the peace the night before.”
Now Schiavelli’s attorney says he’s fighting to keep his client out of jail.
“The day my client gets convicted for laughing, I’ll quit practicing law, and I’ve been practicing for 20 years,” Andrew Campanelli told ABC News. “The ordinance and prosecution are simply absurd.”
Campanelli says the ordinance grants police the right to ticket anyone who’s acting “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct or be offensive to others.”
Each summons carries a $250 fine, and Schiavelli could face 15 days in jail.
In Tuesday’s court hearing, Judge William Croutier said he “was not so inclined” to dismiss the charges, The Associated Press reported.
“Over the next two weeks, I’ll be filling a motion to dismiss. I’m not going to allow him to plead guilty for laughing,” Campanelli said. “We’ll pursue federal court if needed.”