Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spry v. State (Ct. of Appeals)

Decided January 16, 2007—Opinion by Judge Lynne Battaglia, dissent by Chief Judge Robert Bell.

Petitioner, George Junior Spry, sought review following the affirmance by the Court of Special Appeals of his conviction for failure to obey a police officer's reasonable and lawful order to prevent a disturbance to the public peace, in violation of Section 10-201 (c)(3) of the Criminal Law Article, Maryland Code (2002). Spry was convicted after he had been arrested pursuant to a warrant secured on the day following the disturbance. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, holding that a police officer does not have to arrest an individual immediately after the first disobedience of a lawful order made to prevent a disturbance to the public peace to initiate prosecution under Section 10-201 (c)(3).

Chief Judge Bell dissented. In Judge Bell's view, the object of the statute is the prevention of a disturbance of the public peace, and when the arrest is made both the threat to the public peace and the willful failure to obey the order made in pursuance of abating it must still persist. Judge Bell considers that the offense was not committed where the defendant complies and there is no threat to the public peace. The record showed that the petitioner complied with the officer's order, albeit belatedly and accompanied by profanity and a disrespectful attitude. Judge Bell opined that the use of profanity and the failure to show what an officer may regard as proper respect are not the elements of the offense, and thus can not, and should not, be the basis for his conviction.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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