Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Beck, 682 P.2d 137 (Kan. Ct. App. 1984).
This case addresses the following issue:
Should the court consider all of the different factors within a case when determining disorderly conduct?
This case explored the issue of whether a court should consider all of the different factors within a case when determining whether a defendant is guilty of disorderly conduct. In exploring this issue, the court held that a totality of circumstance should be considered when determining disorderly conduct. Id. at 139.
In this case, two police officers were dispatched to the defendant’s house at 2:00 a.m. Id. at 138. Upon arriving at the house, the two officers observed the defendant on the second-floor landing of the residence. Id. At that time, the defendant said to one of the officers, “What the f*** are you doing here?” Id. The officers then advised the defendant that they were called to a disturbance. Id. The defendant then said, “Come up here and I’ll f*** you.” Id. Throughout this encounter, the officers could smell a moderate amount of alcohol upon the defendant. Id. Meanwhile, a woman told officers that she was having a domestic problem with the defendant. Id. Upon hearing the woman, the defendant began to become abusive with the woman and told the officers to leave the premises. Id. One of the officers then told the defendant that they could stay as long as the woman wanted them to. Id. Following this statement, the defendant said, “f*** you” towards the officer. Id. Finally, the officers placed the defendant under arrest for the use of fighting words. Id. After a brief struggle and placing handcuffs on the defendant, the defendant spit in one of the officer’s face. Id. Additionally, after being taken to the police vehicle, the defendant kicked and broke the rear taillight on the vehicle. Id. At trial, the court found that the defendant’s comments were fighting words and convicted him of disorderly conduct. Id. at 138-39. The defendant appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals of Kansas. Id. at 139.
On appeal, the defendant argued that his conviction for disorderly conduct was not appropriate because he did not use “fighting words.” Id. In addressing this argument, the court recognized that determining disorderly conduct depended upon the totality of the circumstances (consider all of the factors in the case). Id. In expressing this statement, the court stated, “What constitutes rude behavior or disorderly conduct depends upon the intention of the person uttering the language, the person to whom uttered, and all the surrounding facts and circumstances. All these elements are proper issues for the judge and jury.” Id. In this case, the court found that the defendant’s words were in fact fighting words, a finding made in light of all the circumstances. Id. These circumstances included: (1) the defendant’s offer to fight the police officer; (2) the defendant’s resistance to the officers’ efforts to restore peace; and (3) the provocative nature of the defendant’s words themselves. Id.
In conclusion, a court will consider all the facts of the case when determining if a defendant is guilty of disorderly conduct. Id.