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. Stroble, 217 P.2d 1073 (Kan. 1950).
This case addresses the following issue:
What are the proper issues for a jury to consider when determining if there is disorderly conduct?
This case explored the issue of what were the proper issues to consider by the jury when determining whether there was disorderly conduct. In exploring this issue, the court held that the intention of the person uttering language claimed to constitute disorderly conduct, the person to whom the language was directed, and all surrounding facts and circumstances were proper issue for the jury. Id. at 1075.
In this case, the trial court convicted the defendant of disturbing the peace (AKA disorderly conduct). Id. at 1073. On various dates between November 29 and December 17, the defendant drove through the city streets, approached, talked to, and made attempts to pick up school girls between the ages of 10 and 13 years. Id. He asked them to get in his car and show him where certain school buildings were located or to get in the car and he would take them to their destinations. Id. at 1073-74. When his offers were refused, as they were by every girl, he would either keep following the girls or reiterate his offer to give them a ride. Id. at 1074. After conviction, the defendant appealed to the Supreme Court of Kansas. Id. In his appeal, the defendant argued that the complaint against him failed to designate any definite or particular act or acts constituting the offense of disorderly conduct. Id.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Kansas addressed what elements were proper issues for the jury. Id. at 1075. According to the court, these elements included: (1) the intention of the person uttering the language constituting disorderly conduct; (2) the person to whom the language was directed; and (3) all surrounding facts and circumstances. Id. Additionally, the court noted that the offense known as disorderly conduct embraced a great variety of conduct destroying or threatening public order and calmness. Id. Moreover, the court stated that the offense included not only violent acts but acts and words likely to produce violence to others. Id.
Considering this case, the court concluded that stopping each little girl once and asking directions to a certain school or to ride might in some circumstances be considered proper or an act of kindness. Id. However, under the circumstances of this case, the court found the occurrences to constitute a breach of peace. Id. Furthermore, the court determined that the defendant’s behavior of invading the privacy of the children and disturbing the peace of mind of the parents was behavior lawmakers were considering when they drafted the statute for this offense. Id. Therefore, the trial court’s conviction of the defendant for disturbing the peace (disorderly conduct) was completely justified. Id.
In sum, the jury should consider the intention of the person uttering the language, the person to whom the language was directed, and all other surrounding facts and circumstances when determining whether a defendant is guilty of disorderly conduct. Id.