IN THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS
THE STATE OF TEXAS
THOMAS MARKOVICH, Appellee
ON APPELLEE’S PETITION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW
FROM THE THIRD DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
Meyers, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which Keller, P.J., Womack, Hervey, Holcomb, and Cochran, J.J., joined. Keasler, J., filed a dissenting opinion joined by Price and Johnson, J.J.
O P I N I O N
Appellee was charged with the Class B misdemeanor offense of Disrupting [a] Meeting or Procession. Tex. Pen. Code §42.05. Appellee filed a pre-trial motion to quash the complaint by attacking the constitutionality of §42.05. The trial court granted appellee’s motion to quash the complaint. The State appealed. The Third Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge’s decision. State v. Markovich, 34 S.W.3d 21 (Tex. App.–Austin 2000). We granted appellee’s petition for discretionary review to decide whether the curtailment of others’ First Amendment rights is an element of §42.05 and to determine if the statute is unconstitutionally vague on its face. We will affirm.
Appellee was charged with disrupting a public meeting. Appellee subsequently filed a pre-trial motion to quash claiming, inter alia, that §42.05 is facially vague in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution. In addition, he argued that the State’s information was defective because it failed to include the substantial impairment language that was provided as a narrowing construction by this Court in Morehead v. State, 807 S.W.2d 577, 581 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). The State made an oral motion to amend the information to add a clause that included the substantial impairment language. The trial court granted both the State’s and appellee’s motions.
The State appealed the trial court’s decision. On appeal the State argued that §42.05 was not impermissibly vague. Markovich, 34 S.W.3d at 25. It contended that while the operative words in §42.05 are not defined, the statute nevertheless gives police officers and other persons of ordinary intelligence reasonable notice of what is proscribed. Id. Appellee argued, among other things, that this Court’s opinion in Morehead aggravated, rather than ameliorated, §42.05's vagueness by requiring an officer to make a judgment call as to whether a person’s conduct substantially interrupts a meeting. Id. at 25. Moreover, he claimed that by limiting the application of §42.05 to conduct that curtails the exercise of others’ First Amendment rights, Morehead forces police officers to know and apply First Amendment jurisprudence before making an arrest. Id. at 26.
The Third Court of Appeals concluded that it did not understand this Court’s holding in Morehead as making the curtailment of the exercise of others’ First Amendment rights as an element of the offense. Id. In addition, it held that §42.05, as construed in Morehead, is sufficiently clear and understandable to satisfy the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 19 of the Texas Constitution. Id.
We first turn to the issue of whether the curtailment of others’ First Amendment rights is an element of the offense of disrupting a public meeting. Appellee contends that the Third Court of Appeals erred by concluding that the phrase “thereby curtail others’ First Amendment rights” was not meant to be an element of the offense of disrupting a meeting, but simply as a phrase expressing this Court’s belief that its narrowing construction properly balances the First Amendment rights of all parties.
In Morehead the appellant argued that §42.05 was impermissibly overbroad in that it prohibited some constitutionally protected activity. 807 S.W.2d at 579. Although we concluded that the statute was overbroad, we held that it was susceptible to a narrowing construction that would be consistent with its language and apparent purpose. We explained:
Given the competing First Amendment freedoms at stake, §42.05 can be rendered constitutional if it is construed to criminalize only physical acts or verbal utterances that substantially impair the ordinary conduct of lawful meetings, and thereby curtail the exercise of others’ First Amendment rights.
Id. at 581 (emphasis in original).
Appellee argues that because “Morehead repeatedly stresses the importance of the free-speech-curtailment element” it is apparent that we intended it to be an added element to §42.05. In Morehead we explained that although the State has a duty to ensure that an individual’s unruly assertion of his right of free expression does not imperil another citizen’s First Amendment freedoms, it could not forbid expressive conduct that is merely “provocative and challenging.” Morehead, 807 S.W.2d at 580. Therefore, with regard to §42.05, we concluded that the best way to ensure that the rights of all individuals are protected is to determine whether the actor’s behavior substantially impaired the conduct of the meeting before his or her actions could be criminalized. Id. If an actor substantially interferes with a meeting, then it necessarily follows that others’ constitutionally protected rights have been infringed upon. This concept was added as one of further explanation. We did not intend that it add anything in the way of a substantive requirement.
Moreover, it is apparent from the cases in which we have discussed the narrowing construction that was applied in Morehead that we have never considered curtailment of others’ First Amendment rights to be an element of §42.05. In Long v. State, 931 S.W.2d 285 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996), this Court was asked to determine the constitutionality of the stalking statute. We turned to Morehead as an example of this Court’s use of a narrowing construction “that increased the intensity of the conduct under scrutiny.” Id. at 296. We explained, “In Morehead this Court construed the words ‘obstruct’ and ‘interferes’ as applying only to conduct which substantially impaired the ordinary conduct of lawful meetings.” Id. We did not consider the curtailment of others’ First Amendment rights to be part of the narrowing construction.
We also referred to Morehead’s narrowing construction in Olvera v. State, 806 S.W.2d 546 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). In Olvera we determined the constitutionality of a picketing statute. As in Long, we used §42.05 as an example of a statute that was readily subject to a narrowing construction:
In Morehead, we recently applied a narrowing construction to Tex. Penal Code Ann. §42.05….We noted that the broad language of §42.05 encompasses “the full range of possible disturbances, from the most minor to the most significant,” but concluded that §42.05 could pass a facial overbreadth challenge by construing it to criminalize only physical acts or verbal utterances that substantially impair the ordinary conduct of lawful meetings and thereby curtail the exercise of others’ First Amendment rights.
Id. at 552 (citations omitted). Appellee considers the inclusion of the curtailment phrase in our discussion as proof that the curtailment of others’ First Amendment rights is an element of §42.05. What appellee fails to acknowledge is that in our discussion of Morehead we also explained that the narrowing construction concerned the amount of interference to a public meeting. See id. at 552 (emphasis added). We did not, however, indicate that we considered the narrowing construction to include the type of impact that such interference had on others’ rights.
For the reasons discussed, the Court of Appeals did not err in concluding that the curtailment of others’ First Amendment rights was not intended to be included as a part of the narrowing construction expounded in Morehead. Appellee’s first ground for review is overruled.
Appellee also claims that §42.05 is unconstitutionally vague on its face. The appropriate standard to be applied in cases making facial challenges to state statutes has been the subject of debate within the U.S. Supreme Court. Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 739 (1997) (Stevens, J., concurring). Compare, e.g., United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745 (1987) (explaining that a facial challenge is the most difficult to mount successfully since the challenger must establish that “no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid”), with City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41, 55 n.22 (1999) (plurality opinion) (arguing that the Salerno standard has never been the decisive factor in any case and addressing a facial attack to a statue on the grounds that vagueness permeated the text). Appellee concedes that the application of the statute is valid in some situations. However, since it has been suggested by the Supreme Court that in situations where a law reaches a “substantial amount of constitutionally protected conduct” a facial challenge can be made to the statute even when it conceivably could have some valid applications, we will address the merits of appellee’s claim. See Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 358 n. 8 (1983) (quoting Village of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 494 (1982)).
A statute will be declared unconstitutionally vague if “its prohibitions are not clearly defined.” Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108 (1972). The statute must provide people of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand what conduct it prohibits. Id. at 108; Long, 931 S.W.2d at 287. Moreover, the statute must provide explicit guidelines for those who enforce them. Grayned, 408 U.S. at 108; Long, 931 S.W.2d at 287. Finally, where First Amendment freedoms are involved, the law must be sufficiently definite in order to avoid chilling expression. Grayned, 408 U.S. at 108; Long, 931 S.W.2d at 287.
Appellee argues that §42.05 is impermissibly vague because it fails to provide determinative enforcement guidelines to police. Relying on Kolender v. Lawson, appellee asserts that, “Proper enforcement of the statute would require officers to know and apply delicate issues of First Amendment jurisprudence before making an arrest by judging when the normally protected form of expression of heckling loses its protected character because it is suppressing the First Amendment right of others.” He also argues that the statute is vague because it requires individuals to “guess as to whether their contemplated conduct is prohibited by caselaw because it might curtail others’ free speech rights.”
Appellee’s facial vagueness claim fails for several reasons. First, as we have just explained, the curtailment of others’ rights is not an element of §42.05. As such, the statute does not require police officers or citizens to “know and apply delicate issues of First Amendment jurisprudence.” Section 42.05 simply prohibits individuals from intentionally engaging in behavior that has the effect of substantially disrupting or preventing the ordinary conduct of a meeting. Section 42.05 reaches only the disorderly physical or verbal conduct of individuals who are acting with the specific intent to prevent or disrupt a meeting. A person of ordinary intelligence knows the type of conduct that is likely to cause an impairment to the ordinary conduct of a meeting.
The statute likewise provides law enforcement with determinative guidelines. Contrary to appellee’s contention, the statute in the present case is distinguishable from that which was held by the U.S. Supreme Court to be unconstitutional on vagueness grounds in Kolender. Kolender involved a California disorderly conduct statute that required a person to “identify” and “account for his presence when requested by an officer to do so.” 461 U.S. at 354. The Court found the statute to be impermissibly vague:
It is clear that the full discretion accorded to the police to determine whether the suspect has provided a “credible and reliable” identification necessarily “[entrusts] lawmaking ‘to the moment-to-moment judgment of the policeman on his beat’”…. [The statute] “furnishes a convenient tool for ‘harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials, against particular groups deemed to merit their displeasure,’” and “confers on police a virtually unrestrained power to arrest and charge persons with a violation”.... Although the initial detention is justified, the State fails to establish standards by which the officers may determine whether the suspect has complied with the subsequent identification requirement.
Id. at 360-61(citations omitted). Under §42.05 police officers are not given the same discretion. As the Third Court of Appeals correctly asserted, “Whether a person’s conduct substantially impairs the ordinary conduct of a meeting is an objective standard that does not acquire its meaning from a particular officer’s determination of what constitutes a ‘substantial’ impairment.” Markovich, 34 S.W.3d at 26. Although an officer must initially make a determination as to whether the statute has been violated before he makes an arrest, the officer’s assessment of the defendant’s conduct is not the defining element of the offense. Id.
Because § 42.05 “communicates its reach in words of common understanding,” Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312, 332 (1988), it provides guidelines for law enforcement and fair notice to citizens as to the type of conduct that is proscribed. Accordingly, we hold that §42.05 is not unconstitutionally vague on its face. The judgment of the Third Court of Appeals is affirmed.
DELIVERED: May 29, 2002