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City of Chicago v. Otten

MAY 5, 1971.

THE CITY OF CHICAGO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JOHN T. OTTEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. LOUIS J. GILIBERTO, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DIERINGER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, John Otten, a 19-year old student from Holland, Michigan, was arrested at the scene of a riot on Madison Street, between Lasalle and Clark, in the City of Chicago, on October 11, 1969. He was charged with disorderly conduct and tried by bench trial in the Municipal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, convicted and fined $150. He brings this appeal, contending (1) there was not a preponderance of the evidence to find the defendant guilty of disorderly conduct; (2) the ordinance under which the defendant was convicted was void for vagueness; and (3) the complaint against the defendant was not specific enough to be legally sufficient.

The defendant testified that he came to Chicago on October 10, 1969, because he "had heard from a friend that the S.D.S. was going to be there * * * and also * * * to visit [his] girl friend who lives in Chicago." He stayed at the girl friend's house overnight and the next morning proceeded to Haymarket Square with a friend to take pictures of the demonstration which was gathering there. He testified that he and his friend were taking pictures at different angles all along the route to the intersection of LaSalle and Madison, and at that point the march broke up and the demonstrators began to run. He further testified he was caught in the group and ran east on Madison to escape from the crowd and was arrested while so doing. However, he also testified that he ran "mainly to get out of the middle of the march where I was."

The police testimony differed from that of the defendant. Detective Monahan of the Intelligence Division of the Chicago Police Department, wearing sport clothes, was marching along with the demonstrators and first noticed the defendant between LaSalle and Clark, when the demonstrators broke up and ran east on Madison, shouting. He testified the defendant came with the first wave going east on Madison, and he grabbed the defendant. They were forced back to a CTA bus standing at the curb, and the defendant broke loose and continued with the other demonstrators east on Madison. Detective Monahan stated the defendant had no camera. Officer Quinlan, who was a little farther east on Madison, testified he saw the defendant running with the mob east on Madison, with the group that was yelling and screaming, "kill the pigs, get the pigs," although he did not see the defendant strike anybody. He was part of the group or mob of five or six hundred people. "Some were running almost in circles, breaking windows, slugging policemen. They were all milling in a group and running different directions. Actually most of them were trying to get away from the policemen, get away or hit them." Officer Quinlan arrested the defendant and charged him with disorderly conduct.

At the trial defendant was the only witness on his behalf. His girl friend did not appear, and neither did the friend he said was with him with the camera.

The complaint is based on Section 193-1 (a) of the Municipal Code of Chicago. The pertinent section of the ordinance provides:

"A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly:

(a) Does any act in such unreasonable manner as to provoke, make or aid in making a breach of peace * * *."

The defendant claims this ordinance is void for vagueness. The ordinance closely resembles the Illinois disorderly conduct statute, which provides:

"A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly:

(1) Does any act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace * * *." (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1969, ch. 38, par. 26-1 (a) (1).)

The Illinois Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the Illinois disorderly conduct statute in People v. Raby (1968), 40 Ill.2d 392. Defendant Raby was convicted of disorderly conduct for completely blocking traffic outside City Hall during a demonstration. The Illinois Supreme Court rejected the defendant's contention that, on its face and as applied, the Illinois disorderly conduct statute was vague and overbroad. The court specifically held that the word "unreasonable" is not impermissibly vague and neither is the term "breach of the peace" which the court noted was a "well recognized common-law term * * * [which] appears in * * * the constitution of the United States." (pp. 395-6.) The court noted that the disorderly conduct statute did not attempt to particularize myriad types of conduct that might fall within its purview, and recognized the necessity of framing the provision in general terms to avoid the "futility of an effort to anticipate and enumerate all of the methods of disrupting public order that fertile minds might devise." (p. 396.) The court concluded that the language of the statute gave any "offender knowingly engaged in some activity in an unreasonable manner which he knew or should have known would tend to disturb, alarm or provoke others" constitutionally sufficient notice that his conduct was proscribed. (p. 397.)

The Illinois statute was considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit when it dismissed the contention that the Illinois statute was unconstitutionally vague and affirmed the conviction in United States v. Woodard (1967), 376 F.2d 136. In that case the court held the Constitution does not require impossible standards of specificity in statutes, rather it requires only that the statute convey "sufficiently definite warning as to the proscribed conduct when measured by common understanding and practices," and the Illinois disorderly conduct statute was held to provide adequate warning or proscribed conduct and does not offend due process.

The defendant in the instant case cites Cox v. Louisiana (1964), 379 U.S. 536, and Edwards v. South Carolina (1963), 372 U.S. 229, to support his contention that the Chicago disorderly conduct ordinance is vague and overbroad. The Supreme Court reversed those cases because the law as construed or applied by the state courts allowed conviction for peaceful exercise of free speech rights. In neither of these cases did the Supreme Court hold that the statutes or ordinances were so vague as to provide inadequate notice to one engaged in non-speech and disruptive conduct, where such conduct was proscribed. In both of those cases the record disclosed the demonstrations were orderly, that ...


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