The Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Tuesday to reverse Joseph Hightower's misdemeanor conviction for petit larceny.
The seven judges say the New York City Transit Authority never owned the money the rider gave Hightower and therefore the swiping didn't constitute larceny.
However, the court notes there was reasonable cause to charge him with unlawful sale of authority services and unlawful access to services.
The judges also note they don't address whether the misdemeanor for general theft of services would apply.
The subway system's ridership topped 1.6 billion last year.
MetroCards for unlimited rides were introduced in 1998.
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