Commonwealth v. Hart, No. 9 MAP 2010 (Pa. September 28, 2011)
Twice in one week, Hart, a 35-year-old man living in a residential area, offered two neighborhood boys a ride to school or at least as far as the local grocery store. Hart neither ordered their entry nor enticed them. The children declined on both occasions.
Hart was then charged with harassment, stalking, and attempted luring of a child into a motor vehicle. After a bench trial in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, he was convicted on four counts of attempted luring and sentenced to 18 months’ probation. As a result of his conviction, Hart was required to register as a sex offender for ten years under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law.
Hart appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Relying on its 1994 Commonwealth v. Figueroa decision, the Superior Court affirmed Hart’s conviction. Hart then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Section 2910 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code addresses luring a child into a motor vehicle:
(a) Offense.–Unless the circumstances reasonably indicate that the child is in need of assistance, a person who lures or attempts to lure a child into a motor vehicle or structure without the consent, express or implied, of the child’s parent or guardian commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.
(b) Affirmative defense.–It shall be an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the person lured or attempted to lure the child into the structure for a lawful purpose.
Because statutory interpretation is a question of law, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court exercised a de novo standard of review.
Noting that neither the current nor previous versions of Section 2910 defined “lure,” the Court first turned to two apparently contradictory 1994 Pennsylvania Superior Court opinions: Commonwealth v. Adamo and Commonwealth v. Figueroa.
In Adamo, the Superior Court found that enticement beyond an offer of a ride to a child is necessary to constitute a lure. But shortly after in Figueroa, it held that an offer of a ride without more was sufficient.
The Court then looked at dictionary definitions of “lure” and concluded that luring requires inducement beyond the mere offer of a ride.
Rejecting Figueroa and concluding that Hart’s actions of offering rides without inducement did not constitute attempts to lure, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed Hart’s conviction.