State ex rel. Scott v. Berberian, 1297-E

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
Writing for the CourtROBERTS
Citation284 A.2d 590,109 R.I. 309
PartiesSTATE ex rel. Robert SCOTT v. Aram K. BERBERIAN. x.
Docket NumberNo. 1297-E,1297-E
Decision Date17 December 1971

Page 590

284 A.2d 590
109 R.I. 309
STATE ex rel. Robert SCOTT
v.
Aram K. BERBERIAN.
No. 1297-Ex.
Supreme Court of Rhode Island.
Dec. 17, 1971.

[109 R.I. 320]

Page 591

Richard J. Israel, Atty. Gen., Donald P. Ryan, Asst. Atty. Gen., Henry Gemma, Jr., Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., for plaintiff.

Aram K. Berberian, Cranston, for defendant.

Page 592

OPINION

[109 R.I. 310] ROBERTS, Chief Justice.

This is a complaint and warrant charging that the defendant did '* * * wilfully fail and refuse to comply with the lawful order of Officer Thomas Lombardo, a Westerly, Rhode Island Police Officer, invested [109 R.I. 311] by law with authority to regulate, control and direct traffic, in violation of Title 31, Chapter 12, Section 3, of the General Laws of Rhode Island 1956 as amended.' 1 The case was tried to a jury in the Superior Court, which subsequently returned a verdict of guilty. From that verdict the defendant has prosecuted a bill of exceptions to this court.

The evidence discloses that on October 18, 1968, about 9:15 a.m., defendant parked a motor vehicle at the intersection of High and Broad Streets in the town of Westerly. Officer Lombardo testified without contradiction that he was patrolling that area dressed in the usual uniform of a police officer, wearing a badge on his chest and a shield on his cap which identified him as a police officer. He further testified that he asked defendant not to park his car in the middle of the street or it would have to be towed away. The defendant replied that he was making a delivery and started to walk away. Officer Lombardo then proceeded to a police booth to call for a tow truck to have the car removed from the highway, and defendant thereupon went back to his car and drove away.

Later that morning, about 11 a.m., defendant returned to the same intersection and once again parked his car, according to Officer Lombardo, in the middle of the street and proceeded to make a delivery. 2 The officer testified that he told defendant that unless he moved the car, he would be placed under arrest, to which defendant replied: 'Go ahead and place me under arrest.' The officer thereupon took defendant into custody and subsequently charged him with a violation of the above-mentioned § 31-12-3.

[109 R.I. 312] The defendant contends that § 31-12-3 was enacted in violation of art. I, sec. 19, and art. IV, sec. 2, of the Rhode Island constitution and of art. XIV, sec. 1, of amendments to the United States Constitution in that it is arbitrary, capricious, and constitutes an unlawful delegation of legislative power. 3 An examination of defendant's brief, however, is persuasive that he is arguing primarily that the section is unconstitutional by reason of vagueness and indefiniteness. We do not agree.

The test for determining the definiteness of a statute within the contemplation of the constitution is aptly stated in Tinsley v. City of Richmond, 202 Va. 707, 714, 119 S.E.2d 488, 493 (1961). There the court said that an ordinance or a statute of a regulatory nature must be clear, certain, and definite so that the average man may with due care after reading the same understand whether or not he will incur a penalty by his action. If the legislation is not of this character, it is void for uncertainty.

In this state we have adopted the same criteria for the determination of definiteness in a constitutional sense. In State v. Jamgochian, R.I., 279 A.2d 923 (1971), we noted that regulatory legislation is not violative of the constitutional requirement for

Page 593

definiteness and certainty when '* * * on its face, (it) is certain rather than vague, contains ascertainable standards, is not so broad as to condone punishment of a person for conduct which is constitutionally permissible and is so definite and specific that a person of common understanding, upon a reading, may readily ascertain whether or not what he intends to do is forbidden.' This view is consistent with the rule on definiteness[109 R.I. 313] laid down in Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91 S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971), and Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, 382 U.S. 87, 86 S.Ct. 211, 15 L.Ed.2d 176 (1965).

We are of the opinion that a reasonable man reading this statute would be made aware of what he is required to do and the circumstances in which he is required to do it. It was enacted as part of a statutory declaration of the scope of the application of traffic regulations and clearly was intended to have its application limited to the control and regulation of traffic. It requires that one shall not willfully refuse to comply with the lawful order of a police officer who has been legally empowered to direct, control, and regulate traffic.

Its provisions are certain and definite, pointing with reasonable specificity to the prohibited conduct, and it is so written that a man of common understanding can ascertain therefrom what he may and may not do. State v. Jamgochian, supra. Its limitations on the authority of the officer to make an arrest are quite clear. It does not leave the question of an arrest to the whim of the police officer or to the moment-to-moment opinions of a policeman on his beat. In such circumstances it is our conclusion that the statute is neither so indefinite nor so arbitrary of application as to be constitutionally void.

The defendant contends also that the officer, in taking him into custody, acted in excess of the authority conferred upon him by § 31-12-3. He argues, first, that the officer has no authority under the statute to order the removal of an illegally parked vehicle unless such vehicle is obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic. We cannot agree. Nothing in the statute limits the authority of the police officer to issue an order that will forestall the obstruction of traffic, nor is there anything that warrants our finding that a standing vehicle, illegally parked or otherwise, is [109 R.I. 314] not traffic within the purview of § 31-12-3. To hold otherwise would be to defeat the obvious purpose of the statute, which is to prevent congestion of traffic, a result likely to flow from the obstruction of the highway by a standing vehicle.

He argues further that the police officer was not engaged in the control, direction, and regulation of traffic and, therefore, was not a police officer contemplated in § 31-12-3. We see no merit whatsoever in this contention. The statute does not prescribe that the officer must be engaged exclusively...

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17 practice notes
  • City of Warwick v. Almac's, Inc., 81-180-A
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • March 19, 1982
    ...the intentional or purposeful discrimination of enforcement necessary to support such a claim. See State ex rel Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 315, 284 A.2d 590, 594 (1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1036, 92 S.Ct. 1314, 31 L.Ed.2d 577 The defendants finally contend that, in bringing the in......
  • State v. Anil, 79-162-C
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • July 29, 1980
    ...682, 686, 371 A.2d 265, 267 (1977); State v. Boudreau, 113 R.I. 497, 503 322 A.2d 626, 629 (1974); State v. ex rel. Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 316, 284 A.2d 590, 594...
  • Charette v. State, PM 2010-2195
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • April 9, 2012
    ...accused is threatened by being punished twice for the same offense, the Rhode Island Supreme Court, in State ex rel. Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 284 A.2d 590 (1971), adopted the following standard as set forth in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304, 52 S. Ct. 180, 182, 76 ......
  • State v. Ballard, 80-341-C
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • January 20, 1982
    ...A.2d 626, 629 (1974); State v. Trivisonno, 112 R.I. 1, 2, 307 A.2d 539, 539 (1973). As we first noted in State ex rel. Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 284 A.2d 590 (1971), the standard used in this jurisdiction for determining whether an accused is in danger of being twice placed in jeopa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • City of Warwick v. Almac's, Inc., No. 81-180-A
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • March 19, 1982
    ...the intentional or purposeful discrimination of enforcement necessary to support such a claim. See State ex rel Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 315, 284 A.2d 590, 594 (1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1036, 92 S.Ct. 1314, 31 L.Ed.2d 577 The defendants finally contend that, in bringing the in......
  • State v. Anil, No. 79-162-C
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • July 29, 1980
    ...682, 686, 371 A.2d 265, 267 (1977); State v. Boudreau, 113 R.I. 497, 503 322 A.2d 626, 629 (1974); State v. ex rel. Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 316, 284 A.2d 590, 594...
  • Charette v. State, PM 2010-2195
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • April 9, 2012
    ...accused is threatened by being punished twice for the same offense, the Rhode Island Supreme Court, in State ex rel. Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 284 A.2d 590 (1971), adopted the following standard as set forth in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304, 52 S. Ct. 180, 182, 76 ......
  • State v. Ballard, No. 80-341-C
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • January 20, 1982
    ...A.2d 626, 629 (1974); State v. Trivisonno, 112 R.I. 1, 2, 307 A.2d 539, 539 (1973). As we first noted in State ex rel. Scott v. Berberian, 109 R.I. 309, 284 A.2d 590 (1971), the standard used in this jurisdiction for determining whether an accused is in danger of being twice placed in jeopa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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