The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently reversed the conviction of a man who was convicted of Annoying or Accosting a Person of the Opposite Sex where the government failed to provide proof that the alleged conduct involved a sexual element.
The prosecution alleged that the defendant approached a woman and tried repeatedly to converse with her. She ignored his attempts and the defendant then left in his car. Sometime later, the defendant again approached the woman and ordered her to get in the car. Eventually, the defendant drove away, but not before the woman was able to get the man’s license plate.
Following trial, the defendant was convicted with having Annoyed or Accosted a Person of the Opposite Sex and appealed.
The Appeals Court reversed the conviction, holding that although the defendant’s conduct “may have been offensive in a generic sense”, it did not comport with the legal definition of “offensive” under the law.
Under the statute, in order for the conduct to be “offensive”, it must have caused displeasure, anger or resentment and was “repugnant to the prevailing sense of what is decent or moral. Whether the conduct is “decent or moral” suggests an intent to reach sexually explicit acts or language.
In this case, the appeals court found, although the conduct was offensive in the general sense, it was devoid of any sexual content, and the evidence was therefore insufficient to prove the crime.
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