Well, this could be a mess: the New York State Senate passed a bill today that makes annoying a police officer a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison. Meaning, punching a cop—albeit with tiny, ineffectual fists—might soon be on par with poking one a few times, or stepping on an officer's heels while walking behind him. That's the annoying-est.

The bill, which was sponsored by upstate State Senator Joe Griffo (R), only applies to physical contact, so you're still free to hum "99 Bottles of Beer" while in a cop's vicinity. But the proposed legislation—which states one is guilty of "aggravated harassment" of an officer when "with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten, or alarm...he or she strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects such a person to physical contact"—still seems like a dip into Thought Police territory.

"This bill will be so arbitrarily and capriciously applied to people that it is senseless," Stacey Richman, a criminal defense attorney, told us. There are already a number of NY State laws outlawing assault, aggravated assault and menacing of police officers; "This piece of legislation...is too vague, too easy to apply," Richman said. "There's no reason to make it into a felony."

In a press release today, Griffo said the bill was meant to counter the fact that "too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer." But while that may be true in some instances, Griffo's bill doesn't explicitly define what cops can consider intentionally annoying behavior, which could leave a lot of room for interpretation. "The intent to harass, that's the impression of the person that's annoyed," Richman said. "You're asking someone making a charge to say what was in the mind of the person they're charging."

She noted that future laws could target non-physical harassment. "What if a police car drives by quickly, and someone says, 'Hey, you almost hit my kid!' Maybe that's harassment," Richman said. "If a cop is having a bad day, he's annoyed. The elevation of crime based on subjectivity is so dangerous to the populace...I don't know why we're spending time on this." The bill will next be voted on by the State Assembly; hopefully, Griffo's next bills will target subway pole-huggers and oversized umbrella enthusiasts instead.