State v. Reyes

Decision Date06 June 1985
Docket NumberNo. 51127-6,51127-6
Citation700 P.2d 1155,104 Wn.2d 35
Parties, 25 Ed. Law Rep. 908 STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Jose REYES, Jr., Appellant.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Daniel Arnold, Richland, for appellant.

C.J. Rabideau, Franklin County Prosecutor, Mr. David W. Corkrum, Deputy County Prosecutor, Pasco, for respondent.

PEARSON, Acting Chief Justice.

The appellant, at the time a juvenile, engaged in a verbal altercation with a school teacher on school grounds. As a result, he was convicted of willfully disobeying the order of the teacher to leave school grounds (RCW 28A.87.055) and of insulting or abusing a teacher on school grounds (RCW 28A.87.010). Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the conviction under RCW 28A.87.055, refusing to leave the school, and challenges the constitutionality of RCW 28A.87.010. We find that the evidence amply supports the conviction for refusing to leave the school grounds. We agree with appellant, however, that RCW 28A.87.010 is facially vague and overly broad and thus violative of the First Amendment. Accordingly, we reverse his conviction for insulting a teacher. Because a careful examination of the evidence is necessary for resolution of the sufficiency of evidence question, we recount the testimony in considerable detail.

On the evening of December 9, 1982, Robert Bodnar, a teacher and coach at McLoughlin Junior High School in Pasco, attended a basketball game at the school. As part of his teaching duties, he is periodically assigned to work at extracurricular school activities. He has supervisory authority at these events, along with the other school employees in attendance. On December 9, 1982, he was at the school as an assigned staff member.

At the conclusion of the game Mr. Bodnar exited the front door of the school. He saw and heard a "commotion" across the street at a cafe. He testified that he heard someone across the street say "Let's go get him". Then he saw at least one person run from the cafe to the south end of the school grounds where a group of at least 50 students were waiting for rides home. Mr. Bodnar then saw someone in that group of people reel backwards, as if struck. He approached the crowd, but because there was a good deal of movement among the group he could not tell exactly what was occurring. He then told everyone to move off the school grounds unless they had a particular reason to remain.

Appellant and his brother remained after the majority of the group left. Both of these boys had been students at McLoughlin Junior High in previous years, but were not students there on this date. Appellant testified that he and Mr. Bodnar had once gotten into an "argument" when appellant was a student at McLoughlin.

Mr. Bodnar again ordered the Reyes boys off the school grounds. Appellant told Mr. Bodnar that he would not obey his order because Mr. Bodnar was not the principal. Appellant testified that he did not want to leave the school grounds, that Mr. Bodnar was falsely accusing him of hitting someone, and that Mr. Bodnar had similarly accused him falsely when he was a student at McLoughlin. Appellant testified that he was angry with Mr. Bodnar for these false accusations.

Mr. Bodnar then began to walk toward the school buildings, having informed appellant that he would call the police if appellant would not leave. Appellant began to move off the school grounds but stated, "You're going to remember this, man" and pointed his finger at Mr. Bodnar. Mr. Bodnar then stopped walking toward the school and turned to ask appellant whether he was threatening him.

The altercation between appellant and Mr. Bodnar escalated at this point, with appellant becoming agitated, swinging his arms, coming toward Mr. Bodnar, and saying "What are you gonna do with it, man?" Appellant's brother placed himself between appellant and Mr. Bodnar, and repeatedly pushed appellant away from Mr. Bodnar and toward the middle of the street.

At approximately this point the vice principal and another teacher appeared on the scene. The teacher and Mr. Bodnar testified that appellant called Mr. Bodnar a "white mother fucker" or a "mother fucker"; both testified that they believed appellant was challenging Mr. Bodnar to a fight and was threatening him. The testimony does not detail the resolution of the conflict, but appellant and his brother left shortly after the vice principal and other teacher appeared. Mr. Bodnar filed a complaint against appellant the next day.

Appellant was subsequently convicted in the Juvenile Division of Franklin County Superior Court and ordered to pay $25 as a penalty for insulting a teacher. He was also ordered to serve a 3-month term of community supervision for refusing to leave the school grounds as ordered. This court accepted the appeal as an administrative transfer from Division Three of the Court of Appeals.

I Sufficiency of Evidence

RCW 28A.87.055 states, in relevant part:

(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to wilfully disobey the order of the chief administrative officer of a public school district, or of an authorized designee of any such administrator, to leave any motor vehicle, building, grounds or other property which is owned, operated or controlled by the school district if the person so ordered is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or is committing, threatens to imminently commit or incites another to imminently commit any act which would disturb or interfere with or obstruct any lawful task, function, process or procedure of the school district or any lawful task function, process or procedure of any student, official, employee or invitee of the school district. The order of a school officer or designee acting pursuant to this subsection shall be valid if the officer or designee reasonably believes a person ordered to leave is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, is committing acts, or is creating a disturbance as provided in this subsection.

(Italics ours.) Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. 1

Where the sufficiency of evidence is challenged in a criminal case, the appellate court must decide whether any reasonable trier of fact could find the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence is to be viewed most favorably to the prosecution. State v. Green, 94 Wash.2d 216, 616 P.2d 628 (1980).

There is considerable evidence on the record that appellant acted willfully and disobeyed the order to leave. Appellant testified that he purposefully refused to leave upon Mr. Bodnar's order.

Additionally, there is ample evidence that Mr. Bodnar was an authorized designee of the school district. He was employed as a teacher and coach by the district; all teachers are required to perform supervisory duty at school functions when assigned by the principal. Mr. Bodnar had been so assigned on December 9, 1982.

Appellant primarily contends there was insufficient evidence that he committed or threatened any act which would disturb lawful school functions, or that he incited anybody else to do so. Appellant's argument ignores the fact that the statute permits a finding of the specified act if the school official reasonably believes the person ordered to leave committed or threatened the act.

The evidence shows Mr. Bodnar saw and heard a commotion across the street from the school, saw someone from the group across the street enter the school grounds, saw what he believed was a person being physically assaulted, and observed a general increase of activity within the large group on the school grounds.

Such evidence shows Mr. Bodnar reasonably believed appellant, as part of the large group, was committing an act that would disturb a lawful "task, function, process or procedure" of the school district or of an employee of that district. The lawful task, function, process or procedure was the supervision of the basketball game and the dispersal of the crowd afterwards. Mr. Bodnar was reasonably cautious of a large crowd of young people that appeared to be becoming agitated. As appellant continued to refuse to obey Mr. Bodnar's orders to leave, Mr. Bodnar's belief that appellant's behavior was disturbing the task at hand (dispersal of spectators from the school grounds) became even more reasonable. Viewed most favorably to the prosecution, any reasonable trier of fact could find all the elements of RCW 28A.87.055 beyond a reasonable doubt.

II Insulting or Abusing a Teacher

Appellant was convicted under RCW 28A.87.010 for calling the teacher a "white mother fucker". The statute reads:

Any person who shall insult or abuse a teacher anywhere on the school premises while such teacher is carrying out his official duties, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, the penalty for which shall be a fine of not less than ten dollars nor more than one hundred dollars.

Appellant challenges the statute as violative of the First Amendment because facially vague and overly broad.

A criminal statute which affects speech must be narrowly construed by the courts in order to ensure that it prohibits only speech which is not constitutionally protected. Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 522, 92 S.Ct. 1103, 1106, 31 L.Ed.2d 408 (1972). Undoubtedly, RCW 28A.87.010 is a criminal statute which affects speech; it punishes the spoken word.

However, not all forms of speech are protected under the First Amendment. One such category of unprotected speech is "fighting words". Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 62 S.Ct. 766, 86 L.Ed. 1031 (1942); Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 91 S.Ct. 1780, 29 L.Ed.2d 284 (1971); Lewis v. New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130, 94 S.Ct. 970, 39 L.Ed.2d 214 (1974). "Fighting words" are those words "which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace." Chaplinsky, 315 U.S. at 572, 62 S.Ct. at 769. The Cohen Court further defined fighting words as "inherently likely to provoke violent reaction." Cohen, 403 U.S. at 20, 91...

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  • In the Matter of The Det. of Robert Danforth
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • November 10, 2011
    ...wherever possible, “it is the duty of this court to construe a statute so as to uphold its constitutionality.” State v. Reyes, 104 Wash.2d 35, 41, 700 P.2d 1155 (1985). Having interpreted “threat” to mean an expression of intention to inflict harm or loss on another under the statute's plai......
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    ...Federal Way Family Physicians, Inc. v. Tacoma Stands Up for Life, 106 Wash.2d 261, 267-68, 721 P.2d 946 (1986); State v. Reyes, 104 Wash.2d 35, 43, 700 P.2d 1155 (1985). Because of the "sensitive nature of protected expression," and the need to prevent criminal sanctions from chilling const......
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    ..."Wherever possible, it is the duty of this court to construe a statute so as to uphold its constitutionality." State v. Reyes, 104 Wash.2d 35, 41, 700 P.2d 1155 (1985). However, "`[w]e cannot press statutory construction `to the point of disingenuous evasion' even to avoid a constitutional ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Residential Tenant's Right to Freedom of Political Expression
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 10-01, September 1986
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