Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Janice Haagensen

In December 3, 2001, Pennsylvania attorney Jan Haagensen spoke to two hunters who were hunting on a road adjacent to her property, in order to prevent them from trespassing on her property. Ms. Haagensen she was charged with criminal harassment under Pennsylvania’s “Hunter Harassment Statute.”

Court/Assoc.: Commonwealth Court

Attorneys/Firms: Kim M. Watterson, Aimee L. Kahan (Reed Smith LLP); Vic Walczak (ACLU of PA)

In December 3, 2001, Pennsylvania attorney Jan Haagensen spoke to two hunters who were hunting on a road adjacent to her property, in order to prevent them from trespassing on her property. Ms. Haagensen she was charged with criminal harassment under Pennsylvania’s “Hunter Harassment Statute.”

The statute was originally passed to protect recreational hunters from interference by the animal protection movement; yet, as it is written, the statute has a much wider reach. Overbroad and vague, the statute criminalizes speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1 § 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. In Ms. Haagenson's case, the trial judge found her guilty of criminal harassment based on the fact that her speech was directed at hunters, speech that would be protected had there been no hunters involved. The statute is a content-based and viewpoint-based restriction that violates the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed an amicus curiae brief in Ms. Haagensen’s appeal. The brief calls on the Commonwealth Court to reverse the trial court’s decision in Ms. Haagensen’s case and to hold that the “Hunter Harassment Statute” is unconstitutional.

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