RUDE BEHAVIOR NOT SUFFICIENT FOR CONVICTION OF ACCOSTING OR ANNOYING A PERSON OF THE OPPOSITE SEX

In Commonwealth v. Sullivan, the Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction of Accosting or Annoying a Person of the Opposite Sex on the ground that the Commonwealth’s evidence was insufficient to support the conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. There was evidence that the defendant approached a young woman at night and repeatedly urged her to speak to him. She refused and he left in his car. A short time later, he approached her again and angrily “ordered her to ‘get in the car.’” When she refused, the defendant “‘stormed off’” and drove away. Under the relevant prong of the disorderly conduct statute, a conviction required proof that the defendant acted in an “offensive” and “disorderly” manner for the purpose of annoying or accosting the complainant. The basis for the Appeals Court’s reversal here was that “although the defendant’s conduct may have been offensive in a generic sense, it did not comport with the legal definition of that term.” The Court explained that offensive conduct is that which causes displeasure or anger and also violates prevailing notions of decency or morality, in the sense that the behavior involves “sexually explicit language or acts.” The Court noted that it had found no case “where nonsexual conduct was deemed ‘offensive’ under the accosting or annoying prong of the statute where the [defendant’s] conduct was … devoid of sexual content, the evidence was insufficient to prove the element of ” offensiveness.

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