People v. Zanchelli

Citation8 Misc.2d 1069,169 N.Y.S.2d 197
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of New York v. Patsy Joseph ZANCHELLI, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date16 December 1957
CourtNew York County Court

John N. McLaren, Dist. Atty., Hudson, for plaintiff-respondent.

Harald R. Topken, Germantown, for defendant-appellant.


The defendant appellant was convicted in the Justice's Court of the Town of Germantown for violation of the provisions of Section 15, paragraph 1 of the Vehicle & Traffic Law of the State of New York, the pertinent provisions of which read as follows: 'Every such motor vehicle, also, shall have a suitable muffler or device to prevent unnecessary noise from exhaust gases'. From this conviction the defendant appeals to this court. The basis of the appeal is that the statute is unconstitutional in that it does not set up a sufficiently certain standard and is not sufficiently explicit to inform those who may become subjected to its penalty as to what conduct on their part will render them liable.

It is a well recognized principle of law that a statute which either forbids or requires the performance of a certain act in language so vague that men of common experience and intellect must necessarily guess at its meaning, and among them may differ as to its application, violates the first essential of due process of law. International Harvester Co. of America v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 234 U.S. 216, 34 S.Ct. 853, 58 L.Ed. 1284; Collins v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 234 U.S. 634, 34 S.Ct. 924, 58 L.Ed. 151. The basis of such a holding comes from our own ordinary conception of fair play.

The question of when the language of the statute is sufficiently definite and certain is the problem presented in this case, as it has been on many other occasions in the courts of this State and in the United States Supreme Court.

The court of appeals of this state has stated that statutes which create crimes must be definite, specifying conduct which is condemned or prohibited. They must afford some comprehensible guide, rule or information as to what must be done and what must be avoided, to the end that the ordinary member of society may know how to comply with its requirements. People v. Grogan, 260 N.Y. 138, 183 N.E. 273, 86 A.L.R 1266. In the Grogan case, supra, the court was construing a statute which defined reckless driving as unnecessarily endangering or unnecessarily interfering with the use of the highway. The court concluded that the word 'unnecessarily' does not prescribe any standard of conduct.

In the case at bar we are dealing with the physical equipment of a motor vehicle. What the statute prohibits is unnecessary noise. There was nothing defective about the muffler. It was a muffler in standard use in this State that can be purchased at any automobile accessory shop or garage. It was difficult on the trial for the trooper to describe the noise, but he said that trucks in operation upon the highway make more noise. The statute does not differentiate between trucks and other motor vehicles, yet the trooper testified that it was...

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13 cases
  • People v. Colozzo, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • September 18, 1967
    ...and must not be so vague that persons of common intelligence must guess or differ as to its application (People v. Zanchelli, 8 Misc.2d 1069, 1070, 169 N.Y.S.2d 197, 180; People v. Phyfe, 136 N.Y. 554, 32 N.E. 978, 19 L.R.A. 141; People v. Shakun, 251 N.Y. 107, 114, 167 N.E. 187, 189, 64 A.......
  • People v. Byron
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • February 24, 1966
    ...unnecessary noise from exhaust gases.' The constitutionality of this provision was challenged in County Courts in People v. Zanchelli, 8 Misc.2d 1069, 169 N.Y.S.2d 197 and People v. Sisson, 12 Misc.2d 18, 176 N.Y.S.2d 785 and in each case the provision was held unconstitutional. The courts ......
  • People v. Meyer
    • United States
    • New York Court of Special Sessions
    • July 10, 1970
    ...of Section 381(1) is the same as the wording of former Section 15(1), which was held to be unconstitutional in People v. Zanchelli, 8 Misc.2d 1069, 169 N.Y.S.2d 197 and People v. Sisson, 12 Misc.2d 18, 176 N.Y.S.2d 785. The legislature repealed Section 15(1) and enacted Section 375(31) esta......
  • Kenville Realty Corp. v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Briarcliff Manor
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • June 28, 1965
    ...Court has noted the testimony of the audio experts and their means of measuring noise which is a physical force (See, People v. Zanchelli, 8 Misc.2d 1069, 169 N.Y.S.2d 197 [Co.Ct. Columbia County 1957]). Both the State Legislature and a local legislative body have acted on this problem by d......
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