Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Commonwealth v. Mochan case brief

Commonwealth v. Mochan case brief summary
110 A.2d 788 (1955)

Defendant appealed from an order of the Court of Quarter Sessions of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania), which convicted him of a common law offense termed "Immoral Practices and Conduct" by the indictments. The indictments charged defendant with making harassing telephone calls to a married woman. Defendant contended that the conduct charged in the indictments did not constitute a misdemeanor at common law.

Defendant used a four-party line to make numerous telephone calls to the woman, a stranger to him, as often as three times a week, at any hour of the day or night, for a period of over a month. His language on the calls was obscene, lewd and filthy. He suggested intercourse and talked of sodomy.

On appeal, the court held that the indictment's factual charges identified the offense as a common law misdemeanor.

  • In Pennsylvania, the common law of England as to crimes was in force except in so far as it had been abrogated by statute. 
  • There was no statute addressing defendant's conduct. 
  • It did not matter that there was no precedent for the crime because the test was whether the alleged crime could have been prosecuted and punished under common law. 
  • Defendant's conduct was a crime because it openly outraged decency and was injurious to public morals. 
  • Although endeavoring to persuade a married woman to commit adultery was not indictable, defendant's conduct evidenced a criminal intent beyond the mere solicitation of adultery. 
  • The telephone operator, or anyone on defendant's four-party telephone line, could have listened in on the conversations and heard the obscene comments.
The court affirmed defendant's conviction.

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