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People v. Weaver (2011) – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In People v. Weaver, 16 NY3d 123, 944 N.E.2d 634, 919 N.Y.S.2d 99 (2011), the Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant's convictions for two counts of disorderly conduct PL § 240.20 (1) and (3).

In Weaver, the defendant, nattily attired in his wedding suit, was loudly yelling and waving his arms at his new bride, who was seated on a curb still in her bridal gown and doused not in celebratory rice, but in her own post-nuptial tears.

The argument occurred at 1:25 am in a parking lot outside of an operating hotel and directly across the street from an open mini-mart gas station. When the responding officer arrived at the scene, defendant Weaver walked across the street and entered the mini-mart.

As the officer drove away, defendant Weaver exited the mini-mart and began yelling at his bride yet again. Defendant shouted a stream of obscenities, without a hint of tenderness.

After observing this second argument the same officer pulled her vehicle near defendant and suggested that he calm down and that the couple needed to take their dispute somewhere else.

Defendant responded by telling the officer to "shut the f---k up" because she "wasn't his mother" and she could not tell him what to do.

The evidence presented was that Weaver's tone was loud and his demeanor was very aggressive and threatening. Defendant was also intoxicated. Weaver was warned that he needed to stop yelling and swearing or he would be arrested for disorderly conduct.

The defendant again loudly used profanity and declared that "if you put your hands on me, bitch, you will be taking me to jail."

A second backup officer arrived and gave defendant a third warning to settle down. Weaver refused to comply, instead continuing to hurl obscenities. When Defendant Weaver was advised that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct, he struggled, punched one officer in the face and injured the other officer's arm.

Defendant Weaver was eventually arrested after a taser was used to subdue him. The Weaver Court stressed the fact that at the time of the incident, the hotel and mini-mart were both open for business, two employees were inside the mini-mart and at least one customer was using a gas pump during the commotion.

In addition, two vehicles accessed a nearby ATM while the disturbance progressed. Id. at 126. The subsequent procedural history in regards to the bride and groom's honeymoon was unreported.

The Weaver Court explained that the factors in determining whether alleged disorderly conduct has public ramifications are the following:

I) the time and place of the episode under scrutiny;

ii) the nature and character of the conduct;

iii) the number of other people in the vicinity;

iv) the attention generated by a defendant's activities, or the lack thereof; and

v) any other relevant circumstances. Id. at 128.

Although there is "no per se requirement that members of the public must be involved or react to the incident…the attention generated by a defendant's activities, or the lack thereof, is a relevant factor to be considered in the public dimension calculus." Id.

Thus, a defendant may be guilty of disorderly conduct regardless of whether the action actually results in public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm if the conduct recklessly creates a risk of such public disruption.

The Weaver Court rejected the defendant's argument that the disturbance was of a private nature, finding that a person may be guilty of disorderly conduct when the "situation extends beyond the exchange between the individual disputants to a point where it becomes a potential or immediate public problem." Id.

In Weaver, the Court, in affirming defendant's convictions stressed that the commotion occurred during the early morning hours when peace and quiet would be expected, the incident began in a public parking lot adjacent to a hotel and extended into a public street near the hotel and mini-mart, both of which were open for business.

And, although there was no testimony at trial from onlookers, there was evidence that a number of people were in the immediate vicinity, whether pumping gas, using the ATM or working at the mini-mart. The Court also agreed it could be reasonably inferred that guests were sleeping in the nearby hotel. Id. at 128-129.