“F*#& YOU” is not disorderly conduct and … a POCKETKNIFE is not a dangerous weapon

The PA Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Pennix, No. 1709 WDA 2016 (December 12, 2017), holding that the evidence was insufficient to support Pennix’s convictions for possessing a weapon in a court facility (a pocketknife and razor blades) and for disorderly conduct (saying “fuck you” to the sheriffs working the door).

Pennix attempted to enter a court facility but was detained at the metal detector when a scan of her book bag revealed the presence of a knife and razor blades. She was asked to remove the items from her bag, but she had difficulty locating them and became argumentative with the deputy. Pennix continued to get more and more agitated, and was heard screaming “Fuck you I ain’t got time for this,” “Fuck you police” and “I don’t got time for you fucking police.” The Sheriff’s deputies, obviously offended by Pennix’s poor grammar and sentence structure, instructed her to leave the building; but, she refused and continued to scream and be disruptive until she was escorted from the building by the deputies.

Pennix was charged and convicted after a bench trial of possessing a weapon in a court facility and disorderly conduct. Her post sentence motions were denied and she appealed to the Superior Court arguing, in part, that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions.


The Superior Court found that there was no evidence in the record that Pennix’s pocketknife opened with an automatic switch or other device. Nor was there any evidence that her pocketknife or razor blades qualified as “implements for the infliction of serious bodily injury which served no common lawful purpose,” since such implements often serve as utilitarian tools. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the Commonwealth failed to meet its burden of presenting sufficient evidence to establish that Pennix entered the courthouse in possession of “dangerous weapons” in violation of the applicable statute. Conviction reversed.


Additionally, the Superior Court concluded that the record failed to support Pennix’s conviction of disorderly conduct for the use of “obscene language” or the making of “an obscene gesture.”

Pennix admitted that she became “very upset” and was “using profanity with the police.” However, the Superior Court noted that to meet the test for “obscenity,” the words must appeal to the prurient interest or sexual conduct. Thus, while the words and conduct used by Pennix were “disrespectful, insulting and offensive,” they were not “obscene” within the meaning of the statute. Further, her conduct was not risking an immediate breech of the public peace.

As has been stated before, “the offense of disorderly conduct is not intended as a catchall for every act which annoys or disturbs people; it is not to be used as a dragnet for all the irritations which breed in the ferment of a community.” Therefore, since Pennix’s words were “angry words . . . having nothing to do with sex,” the evidence was insufficient to support her disorderly conduct conviction. Conviction reversed.

CASE LINK: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/Opinion%20%20Vacated%20%2010335123230569979.pdf?cb=1

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