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COMMONWEALTH v. SAXON (03/23/71)

decided: March 23, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SAXON, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas of York County, Oct. T., 1968, No. 171, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Thaddeus Saxon.

COUNSEL

G. Vaughn, with him Donn I. Cohen, and Liverant, Senft and Cohen, for appellant.

Gary M. Gilbert, Assistant District Attorney, with him Harold N. Fitzkee, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Cercone, JJ. Opinion by Cercone, J. Concurring Opinion by Hoffman, J. Spaulding, J., joins in this concurring opinion.

Author: Cercone

[ 219 Pa. Super. Page 66]

The Indictment against Thaddeus Saxon charged that he: ". . . did unlawfully and feloniously interfere

[ 219 Pa. Super. Page 67]

    with law enforcement personnel and fire fighting equipment, during riotous and tumultuous conditions, to wit: did stand at the intersection of South Penn Street and West Hope Avenue, and refused to let fire fighting equipment proceed to a fire at Hoffman's Meat Market situate at 226 South Penn Street, City of York, Pennsylvania, and thereby endangered the lives of personnel and residents lawfully within the area."

This Indictment was based on Section 402.1 of The Penal Code, Act of June 24, 1939, P. L. 872, as amended by the Act of July 12, 1968, P. L. [ILLEGIBLE WORD], 18 P.S. 4402.1, which provides: "Section 402.1 Interferences with Law Enforcement or Fire Fighting Personnel or Equipment, Endangering Lives of such Personnel or Others During Riotous or Tumultuous Conditions. . . . Whoever during any riotous or tumultuous conditions does any act which interferes with the operation of law enforcement or fire fighting personnel or equipment, or endangers the lives of such personnel or any other person lawfully within the area, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to undergo imprisonment, by separate or solitary confinement at labor, for a term of not more than two (2) years."

Defendant Saxon moved to quash the indictment on the ground that it was based on a Statute that was vague and overbroad and therefore unconstitutional. The motion was refused and the case proceeded to trial before a jury.

The Commonwealth presented evidence that on the night of August 4, 1968, at about 11 o'clock P.M., the York City police, faced with a riotous situation, had a certain area of York, including the 200 block of South Penn Street, sealed off. Shots were being fired and bonfires were being built in the street when the police took this precaution. A fire started in the rear of

[ 219 Pa. Super. Page 68]

Hoffman's Meat Market located at Penn Street and Hope Alley and fire apparatus was summoned.

As the fire truck approached, Saxon and one Wright were standing in the middle of Penn Street and the fire equipment was unable to continue to the fire because of their presence in the street. When they refused to move at the request of the police officer, they were removed from the street. As a result of the defendants' actions, the fire apparatus was delayed for a brief time from proceeding to the fire.

Saxon denied that he stood in Penn Street and caused the fire truck to stop.

The jury chose to believe the Commonwealth's witnesses and returned a verdict of guilty. Defendant Saxon then made motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment, which were refused by the court below.

Defendant now appeals to this Court contending that his conviction cannot stand because the Act upon which the indictment and conviction were based was unconstitutional. He claims:

1. That part of the statute which reads "any act which interferes" is unconstitutionally vague.

2. That part of the statute which reads "the operation of" is unconstitutionally vague.

3. The statute fails to require that the proscribed conduct be done intentionally.

4. The statute fails to require that the interference with the law-enforcement or fire-fighting personnel be interference with them in the course of their performance of an ...


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