Com. v. Mastrangelo

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore EAGEN; O'BRIEN; ROBERTS; FLAHERTY; ROBERTS; FLAHERTY
Citation414 A.2d 54,489 Pa. 254
Decision Date28 April 1980
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Thomas J. MASTRANGELO, Appellant.

Page 54

414 A.2d 54
489 Pa. 254
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania
v.
Thomas J. MASTRANGELO, Appellant.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Argued Jan. 21, 1980.
Decided April 28, 1980.

Page 55

[489 Pa. 256] William J. Gallagher, West Chester, for appellant.

Joan D. Lasensky, Asst. Dist. Atty., Lee Ruslander, West Chester, for appellee.

Before EAGEN, C. J., and O'BRIEN, ROBERTS, NIX, LARSEN and FLAHERTY, JJ.

[489 Pa. 257] OPINION OF THE COURT

O'BRIEN, Justice.

Appellant, Thomas J. Mastrangelo, was convicted in a non-jury trial of disorderly conduct and obstructing administration of law or other governmental function. Post-verdict motions were denied. Appellant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of one to twenty-three months. Appellant was also ordered to pay two $500 fines. The Superior Court affirmed per curiam and we granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal.

This case arises out of incidents that occurred in February, 1976 in the Borough of Phoenixville in Chester County. Appellant had a place of business called the "Blue Jay" on Bridge Street in Phoenixville. When the incidents in question occurred, appellant's car was parked on the street in front of his establishment. The street was metered and was being patrolled by Diane Young, a meter maid employed by the Borough. According to Young's testimony, she was patrolling the street during the morning of February 3. She ticketed appellant's car, which was illegally parked at a meter. Appellant came out of his store and shouted at her, repeatedly calling her a "fucking pig". Ms. Young walked away, but appellant continued shouting at her.

Page 56

On February 4, Ms. Young was again patrolling Bridge Street. She again observed appellant's car, but did not ticket it because it was legally parked. Nonetheless, appellant came out of his store and followed Ms. Young along Bridge Street, shouting at her and calling her, among other things, a "nigger lover" and a "cocksucker". Ms. Young asked appellant to leave her alone, but he continued to follow her, yelling the entire time, until she left the area. On both occasions, Ms. Young testified that bystanders on the street observed appellant's conduct; none, however, testified in court.

Ms. Young also testified that appellant's actions had frightened her. In fact, Ms. Young did not patrol Bridge Street from February 5 to February 12 because of her fear of appellant.

[489 Pa. 258] Appellant first argues that the charge against him for disorderly conduct must be dismissed because the statute under which he was charged is facially invalid on the ground of vagueness or, in the alternative, is invalid as applied to him. Appellant was convicted under the disorderly conduct statute, which provides:

"(a) Offense defined A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:

"(2) Makes unreasonable noise.

"(b) Grading. An offense under this subsection is a misdemeanor of the third degree if the intent of the actor is to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist. Otherwise disorderly conduct is a summary offense.

"(c) Definition. As used in this section, the word "public" means affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access ; among the places included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, any neighborhood, or any premises which are open to the public." Act of December 6, 1972, P.L. 1482, No. 334, § 1, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5503. (Emphasis added.)

In Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 U.S. 385, 391, 46 S.Ct. 126, 127, 70 L.Ed. 322 (1926), the Court stated:

"That the terms of a penal statute creating a new offense must be sufficiently explicit to inform those who are subject to it what conduct on their part will render them liable to its penalties, is a well recognized requirement, consonant alike with ordinary notions of fair play and the settled rules of law; and a statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess [489 Pa. 259] at its meaning and differ as to its application, violates the first essential of due process of law."

In reviewing appellant's facial attack on the vagueness of the statute in question, it is important to remember, as we stated in Commonwealth v. Heinbaugh, 467 Pa. 1, 4-5, 354 A.2d 244, 245 (1976), that:

"Absent the assertion of an infringement of First Amendment freedoms, the specificity of a statute must be measured against the conduct in which the party challenging the statute has engaged." (Footnote omitted.)

Appellant argues that the disorderly conduct statute is so vague that a man of common intelligence could reasonably believe the statute made criminal the valid exercise of a protected First Amendment right.

Although appellant's claim is that the statute is vague, aspects of overbreadth analysis are brought into play. As Mr. Justice Pomeroy has aptly stated:

"If a colorable claim is asserted that enforcement of a statute would infringe upon the exercise of protected First Amendment activity by the public, then a facial attack upon the statute may be proper. While the overbreadth and vagueness theories upon which appellees

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rely have distinct constitutional bases, they serve a common function when advanced to challenge a statutory provision which colorably infringes upon the public's exercise of First Amendment freedoms. The vice which both theories attack is an impermissible chilling effect on conduct which may be protected. Whether that effect is generated by statutory terms which, while definite, are too broad in sweep, or by statutory terms the sweep of which is unknown because the terms are too imprecise, the infringement on First Amendment freedoms is the same, members of the public are forced to risk criminal prosecution in order to engage in activity which may be protected by the First Amendment. The public's interest in guarding against such infringements is sufficiently important that any defendant may challenge the constitutionality of the language of the statute as it might be applied to the [489 Pa. 260] public at large, notwithstanding that his own actual conduct may not be protected by the First Amendment. As a consequence, a statute which is challenged on First Amendment overbreadth or vagueness grounds may be scrutinized by a court on its face, not in light of its application in the particular case before the court.

"See Lewis v. City of New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130, 94 S.Ct. 970, 39 L.Ed.2d 214 (1974); Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91 S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971); Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 60 S.Ct. 736, 84 L.Ed. 1093 (1940); Note, The First Amendment Overbreadth Doctrine, 83 Harv.L.Rev. 884 (1970); Note, Due Process Requirement of Definiteness in Statutes, 62 Harv.L.Rev. 77 (1948); Note, The Void for Vagueness Doctrine in the Supreme Court, 109 U.Pa.L.Rev. 67 (1960)." Commonwealth v. Cook, 468 Pa. 249, 257, 361 A.2d 274, 278 (1976) (Concurring opinion) (Emphasis added.)

It is well-settled that when faced with a state statute, the constitutionality of which is being challenged on grounds of vagueness and overbreadth, the United States Supreme Court is required to accept any narrowing and limiting construction given the statute by the state courts. Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 92 S.Ct. 1103, 31 L.Ed.2d 408 (1971); Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91 S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971). As the instant appeal presents this court with its first opportunity to examine the constitutionality of our disorderly conduct statute, we are thus free, and in fact obligated, to narrow and limit said statute in light of the protections guaranteed by the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions.

A state, in a valid exercise of its police power, may enact laws to protect the public peace. 1 In response to this obligation, the legislature passed the aforementioned disorderly conduct statute, which, by its terms prohibits any person from intentionally or recklessly causing or creating a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm by making [489 Pa. 261] unreasonable noise. Regarding the intent element,...

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77 practice notes
  • Gilles v. Davis, No. 04-2542.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • October 25, 2005
    ...199, 211 (3d Cir.2003) (quoting Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 522, 92 S.Ct. 1103, 31 L.Ed.2d 408 (1972)); Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54, 58 (1980) ("disorderly conduct statute may not be used to punish anyone exercising a protected First Amendment right"). Speech ......
  • Egolf v. Witmer, No. 06-2193.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • May 22, 2008
    ...199, 211 (3d Cir.2003) (quoting Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 522, 92 S.Ct. 1103, 31 L.Ed.2d 408 (1972)); Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54, 58 (1980) ("disorderly conduct statute may not be used to punish anyone exercising a protected First Amendment right"). Speech ......
  • State v. Linares, No. 10910
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 4, 1993
    ...194 Colo. 415, 573 P.2d 100 (1978); People v. Bakolas, 59 N.Y.2d 51, 449 N.E.2d 738, 462 N.Y.S.2d 844 (1983); Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54 (1980). The purpose of the restriction is the elimination of excessive noise, not the suppression of particular speech. Carew-R......
  • Bloomsburg Landlords Ass'n v. Town Of Bloomsburg, No. 4: CV-94-0148.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • December 29, 1995
    ...have been upheld against challenges that they violate the federal or Pennsylvania constitutions. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54 (1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 894, 101 S.Ct. 259, 66 L.Ed.2d 124 (Pennsylvania disorderly conduct statute survived a First Amend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
77 cases
  • Gilles v. Davis, No. 04-2542.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • October 25, 2005
    ...199, 211 (3d Cir.2003) (quoting Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 522, 92 S.Ct. 1103, 31 L.Ed.2d 408 (1972)); Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54, 58 (1980) ("disorderly conduct statute may not be used to punish anyone exercising a protected First Amendment right"). Speech ......
  • Egolf v. Witmer, No. 06-2193.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • May 22, 2008
    ...199, 211 (3d Cir.2003) (quoting Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 522, 92 S.Ct. 1103, 31 L.Ed.2d 408 (1972)); Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54, 58 (1980) ("disorderly conduct statute may not be used to punish anyone exercising a protected First Amendment right"). Speech ......
  • State v. Linares, No. 10910
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 4, 1993
    ...194 Colo. 415, 573 P.2d 100 (1978); People v. Bakolas, 59 N.Y.2d 51, 449 N.E.2d 738, 462 N.Y.S.2d 844 (1983); Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54 (1980). The purpose of the restriction is the elimination of excessive noise, not the suppression of particular speech. Carew-R......
  • Bloomsburg Landlords Ass'n v. Town Of Bloomsburg, No. 4: CV-94-0148.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • December 29, 1995
    ...have been upheld against challenges that they violate the federal or Pennsylvania constitutions. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Mastrangelo, 489 Pa. 254, 414 A.2d 54 (1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 894, 101 S.Ct. 259, 66 L.Ed.2d 124 (Pennsylvania disorderly conduct statute survived a First Amend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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