Commonwealth v. Mochan

177 Pa. Super. 454



In Pennsylvania, conduct that injuriously affects public morality is punishable as a common law misdemeanor.


Defendant made numerous telephone calls to a 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 often obscene, lewd and filthy. He was indicted with a common law misdemeanor termed “Immoral Practices and Conduct” for making harassing telephone calls to a married woman.


Is conduct that injuriously affects public morality punishable as a common law misdemeanor?




Even though there is no statute or exact precedent to punish the Defendant’s conduct, his acts injuriously affected public morality and thus constituted a common law misdemeanor. Under Commonwealth v. Miller, the court held that “the common law is sufficiently broad to punish as a misdemeanor . . . any act which directly injures or tends to injure the public to such an extent as to require the state to interfere and punish the wrongdoer, as in the case of acts which injuriously affect public morality.” 94 Pa. Super. 499, 507 (1928). In this case, the telephone operator could have overheard the conversations and there was evidence that at least two other persons in the woman’s household actually heard some of the immoral and obscene language over the telephone. Therefore, the Defendant’s conduct was sufficiently injurious to public morality to constitute a common law misdemeanor.

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