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Pierce v. Commonwealth

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was convicted on a violation of a local statute for solicitation to commit sodomy. The city ordinance was harsher and defined the crime different than the State statute. Appellant appealed arguing that the city ordinance was invalid.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A power or function is in conflict with a state statute if it is expressly prohibited by a state statute or there is a comprehensive scheme of legislation on the same general subject.

    Facts. Appellant was convicted of criminal solicitation to commit sodomy. Appellant was fined and sentenced to six months in jail. Appellant’s conviction was sustained in the lower courts. Appellant appeals and contends that because the city and state statute conflict, the city ordinance is invalid.

    Issue. Whether a city by local ordinance may redefine the elements of the offense and impose criminal penalties greater than allowed by state statute.

    Held. Reversed and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
    A power or function is in conflict with a statute if it is expressly prohibited by a statute or there is a comprehensive scheme of legislation on the same general subject embodied in the state statutes.

    The state designed a comprehensive approach to prohibiting the solicitation of crimes and directs a range of punishment.

    Dissent. The dissent argued that the city had statutory authority per the Home Rule statute which made the city ordinance a valid exercise of power. In areas of public health, the state may not preempt the entire field. Although the city could not fix the penalty to less than the state statute, it could make it greater.

    Discussion. The Court ruled that by the state statutory scheme on solicitation of crimes, the state had occupied the field. The Court noted that the city ordinance was subject to more expansive interpretation that could lead to abusive prosecutions. An inadvertent act could lead to prosecution when it was merely an innocent acti


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