Pennsylvania Court on “Obscene Language” and Criminalizing Fighting Words
From Commonwealth v. Muhammad, decided Wednesday, by Judge John Bender, joined by Judges Maria McLaughlin and Correale Stevens:
On August 12, 2021, Appellant was charged with disorderly conduct, pursuant to Sections 5503(a)(2) and (a)(3), in connection with an incident which the trial court summarized as follows:
The incident which resulted in the disorderly conduct charges occurred at the Judge Bernard C. Brominski building[,] which contains the domestic relations and child custody divisions of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. [Appellant] attempted to enter the Brominski building without a mask at a time when masks were required. After obtaining a mask, [Appellant] was permitted to enter the building. As she was entering, [Appellant] told a security officer, “I’m not fucking talking to you.” She then entered and said “fuck you” to a deputy sheriff and the security officer. [Appellant] then said “fuck you” again as she walked in the direction of the elevator. After entering the elevator, [Appellant] began screaming for help. As a result of her actions, [Appellant] was charged with one count of disorderly conduct for using obscene language and one count for making unreasonable noise. She was found guilty of [disorderly conduct for] using obscene language on April 6, 2022….
The relevant statute, though, prohibits “obscene language” or “obscene gesture[s],” an
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