USA v. Pugh, No. 21-13136 (11th Cir. 2024)Annotate this Case
The case concerns Tia Deyon Pugh, who was charged with impeding law enforcement during a civil disorder in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 231(a)(3) during a protest in Mobile, Alabama. She smashed a police car window with a baseball bat, thus obstructing law enforcement officers in their official duties during the civil disorder. Pugh challenged the constitutionality of Section 231(a)(3) on four grounds, arguing that it: (1) exceeds Congress’s power to legislate under the Commerce Clause, (2) is a substantially overbroad regulation of activities protected by the First Amendment, (3) is a content-based restriction of expressive activities in violation of the First Amendment, and (4) is vague in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The district court rejected these arguments, and Pugh was found guilty by a jury.
On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Pugh’s conviction. The court held that Section 231(a)(3) does not exceed Congress's power under the Commerce Clause as the statute's jurisdictional element is sufficient to limit its scope to constitutional applications. The court also found that the statute does not violate the First Amendment as it does not broadly prohibit protected speech and expressive conduct. Furthermore, the court ruled that the statute is not a content-based restriction and does not violate the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause due to vagueness. The court concluded that the statute constitutionally applies to Pugh's conduct, and she may not challenge the statute on vagueness grounds based on its application to others.