Was there a crime committed?

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Joined: 07/24/10
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Was there a crime committed?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20110606/od_yblog_upshot/penny-offense-man-fined-for-paying-fee-in-pennies

Should this man be fined for paying a bill in pennies?

Penny offense: Man fined for paying fee in pennies
By Claudine Zap

No lucky pennies here: Police have charged Jason West, an aggrieved medical patient in Vernal, Utah, with disorderly conduct. His alleged crime? Attempting to pay a disputed medical bill of $25 entirely in pennies.
The story, reported in the Salt Lake City Deseret News, describes the "penny offense" this way: West, 38, did not believe he owed the medical clinic $25 but came in to pay the fee in person. He first asked the clinic staff if the facility accepted cash payments, and then dumped 2,500 pennies onto the counter and demanded that they be counted.
But West apparently hadn't counted on the clinic calling the police; the arresting officer contended that West's protest served "no legitimate purpose." The charge carries a fine that can go as high as $140--and there's no word as yet on what currency West will use to pay it.
West isn't alone in the ranks of penny protesters. A wise guy in Frederick, Maryland, showed up at the county clerk's office last summer with bags of cash to pay off his tax bill with $966.86 in change.
And a New Jersey school district a few years back punished 29 students who paid for their $2 school lunches in pennies--possibly as a prank--with two-day detentions. After parents protested, the students were pardoned. The school explained that the use of the small change slowed down the lunch line.

daniellevmt's picture
Joined: 07/25/06
Posts: 213

Yes, because he had bad intentions. He did is to cause frustration and confusion in the Dr.'s office, and that is not cool. If he truly only had those pennies to pay with, he could've gone to a bank, but even if not, he could've politely handed the bag to the receptionist and not dumped them all over the counter. That could've given the receptionist the time to explain to the man that he should turn the pennies in at a bank, or roll the pennies....something that would make better use of everyone's time. Yup, this guy was doing this to be mean and spiteful, so yes, he derserves a fine.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

Yes. The guy needs to start saving his receipts. It'd be a lot less painful for everyone involved.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705373959/Peeved-patient-proud-of-penny-protest.html

He was prepared to pay with his debit card, he said, but found out that wasn't necessary.

Yeah right. I carry around 25,000 pennies in the off chance that it's more convenient than paying with my debit card. I'd feel sympathetic towards him if he didn't think it was hilarious.

Joined: 06/04/07
Posts: 1368

Cash is just that, cold hard cash. Since he asked ahead of time if cash was acceptable, I don't think he should've been fined. They could have easily refused to accept the payment or asked him to elaborate on the question before answering. I don't get why they automatically called the police to begin with. Was he behaving so poorly that they feared their safety?

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

As long as pennies are money in this country, then he has every right to pay in pennies. What they should have done is asked him to bring them back rolled. I hope he pays the $140 fine in pennies.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4104

"culturedmom" wrote:

As long as pennies are money in this country, then he has every right to pay in pennies. What they should have done is asked him to bring them back rolled. I hope he pays the $140 fine in pennies.

This is exactly what I was going to say! It's not illegal for him to pay his bill in pennies, but they aren't obligated to count his pennies. That created a purposeful inconvenience.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

He dumped them out of a container and they rolled all over the reception area. They were in a container and he purposely made a huge mess with them just to disturb the people he was angry at. Ridiculously childish and definitely disorderly conduct.

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"wlillie" wrote:

He dumped them out of a container and they rolled all over the reception area. They were in a container and he purposely made a huge mess with them just to disturb the people he was angry at. Ridiculously childish and definitely disorderly conduct.

I didn;t realize being childish and a d!ck was against the law?

The op was "should the man be fined for paying in pennies?" My answer is no. Now if you asked "is this man an incredible d!ck?" my answer would have been different. He paid in pennies and that is not a crime because pennies are legal tender in this country. They should have asked him to pick up his mess and bring them back rolled. If he refused then they could throw him out and call the police for tresspassing or disturbing the peace or whatever. But to call the police because the man paid a bill in pennies? They are being just as big an immature jerk as he is.

b525's picture
Joined: 06/06/07
Posts: 298

He wasn't fined for paying in pennies; he was fined for disorderly conduct. That charge is really subjective and I don't think they can legitimately fine him for it since there wasn't an officer present. Wouldn't there have to be an officer or some type of video of the behavior for there to be proof of disorderly conduct? I mean, he could have come in and paid in bills and she still could have declared him to be disorderly. They can't just take someone's word for that, especially when they're in a dispute with another person. I bet the charge doesn't stick.

b525's picture
Joined: 06/06/07
Posts: 298

It's a shame that he acted that way. He could have been just as effective by putting the container full of pennies on the counter and requesting the receipt, rather than dumping them out. He would have made his point AND still made her do the work of counting the money, all without causing disruption.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"culturedmom" wrote:

As long as pennies are money in this country, then he has every right to pay in pennies. What they should have done is asked him to bring them back rolled. I hope he pays the $140 fine in pennies.

"culturedmom" wrote:

I didn;t realize being childish and a d!ck was against the law?

The op was "should the man be fined for paying in pennies?" My answer is no. Now if you asked "is this man an incredible d!ck?" my answer would have been different. He paid in pennies and that is not a crime because pennies are legal tender in this country. They should have asked him to pick up his mess and bring them back rolled. If he refused then they could throw him out and call the police for tresspassing or disturbing the peace or whatever. But to call the police because the man paid a bill in pennies? They are being just as big an immature jerk as he is.

These. I'm not saying I really admire and respect his actions, but as long as pennies are legal tender in this country and the office accepts cash, I cannot imagine how paying in pennies could be a punishable offense.

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

"culturedmom" wrote:

As long as pennies are money in this country, then he has every right to pay in pennies. What they should have done is asked him to bring them back rolled. I hope he pays the $140 fine in pennies.

I agree.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

"culturedmom" wrote:

I didn;t realize being childish and a d!ck was against the law?

The op was "should the man be fined for paying in pennies?" My answer is no. Now if you asked "is this man an incredible d!ck?" my answer would have been different. He paid in pennies and that is not a crime because pennies are legal tender in this country. They should have asked him to pick up his mess and bring them back rolled. If he refused then they could throw him out and call the police for tresspassing or disturbing the peace or whatever. But to call the police because the man paid a bill in pennies? They are being just as big an immature jerk as he is.

He wasn't fined for paying in pennies; he was fined for dumping them all over an office.

"b525" wrote:

It's a shame that he acted that way. He could have been just as effective by putting the container full of pennies on the counter and requesting the receipt, rather than dumping them out. He would have made his point AND still made her do the work of counting the money, all without causing disruption.

This. I seriously doubt that man calmly walked in there and asked if he could pay in cash if he dumped out the bucket on the counter. I would bet that if someone dumped that amount of pennies that the bucket would have been pretty freaking heavy. If someone put anything in that nature on my desk while I was sitting at it they better pray the cops get there before I can get around the desk to get to them. Technically it's not illegal to walk around in your bra and underwear, but you would expect that if someone walked into a doctors office wearing only those that they would be arrested for disorderly conduct if there intentions were obviously to be disorderly.

Wikipedia-Police may use a disorderly conduct charge to keep the peace when people are behaving in a disruptive manner to themselves or others, but present no serious public danger.

For those that don't think it's a big deal and have a change jar: Do you let your kids dump it all over your house? Cause if mine ever went for the jar I would freak because the mess would take forever to clean up. Can you imagine having to pick up 2500 pennies because some idiot felt like getting even because he had to pay a bill?

Maybe you guys didn't get a chance to read the article I posted. Here it is again

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705373959/Peeved-patient-proud-of-penny-protest.html?pg=2

West is accused of unnecessarily causing alarm when he unloaded 2,500 pennies onto a receptionist's counter at the clinic to settle his bill
...
Basin Clinic's doctors issued a brief statement Tuesday saying the clinic has "always accepted all legal currency as payment.”

“We will not tolerate pennies or any other objects being thrown at our employees,” the statement said.
....
Some of the coins, he acknowledges, spilled onto the desk below where the receptionist was seated and onto the floor

Joined: 01/01/06
Posts: 262

He wasn't arrested....he was given a ticket. Very different.

Anyways, while I would never do that, I do not think it constitutes disorderly behavior. If he had been irate or something, then yeah. But it all sounds very orderly to me.

Another thing, the city he is from is small...it took the police hours to contact him (even though they would have had all the info they needed right of the bat and he lived just down the street). And it wasn't till a few days later he was actually given the ticket. Seems more likely the receptionist complained and complained till something happened. I honestly bet even the cops got a laugh out of it. I mean seriously--who calls the cops for that kind of thing! It's a waste of their time and the taxpayer's money.

mommytoMR.FACE's picture
Joined: 04/10/09
Posts: 781

"culturedmom" wrote:

As long as pennies are money in this country, then he has every right to pay in pennies. What they should have done is asked him to bring them back rolled. I hope he pays the $140 fine in pennies.

This.

b525's picture
Joined: 06/06/07
Posts: 298

http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE76/htm/76_09_010200.htm

Utah Code
Title 76 Utah Criminal Code
Chapter 9 Offenses Against Public Order and Decency
Section 102 Disorderly conduct.

76-9-102. Disorderly conduct.
(1) A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if:
Angel he refuses to comply with the lawful order of the police to move from a public place, or knowingly creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition, by any act which serves no legitimate purpose; or
(b) intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(i) engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior;
(ii) makes unreasonable noises in a public place;
(iii) makes unreasonable noises in a private place which can be heard in a public place; or
(iv) obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
(2) "Public place," for the purpose of this section, means any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes but is not limited to streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops.
(3) Disorderly conduct is a class C misdemeanor if the offense continues after a request by a person to desist. Otherwise it is an infraction.

I think his behavior fits the first part of the code, the part I bolded. Still, though, it seems that an officer would have to witness it, don't you think?

ETA: I reiterate that he was fined for his behavior, not for paying in pennies.

Joined: 06/04/07
Posts: 1368

"b525" wrote:

http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE76/htm/76_09_010200.htm

Utah Code
Title 76 Utah Criminal Code
Chapter 9 Offenses Against Public Order and Decency
Section 102 Disorderly conduct.

76-9-102. Disorderly conduct.
(1) A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if:
Angel he refuses to comply with the lawful order of the police to move from a public place, or knowingly creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition, by any act which serves no legitimate purpose; or
(b) intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(i) engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior;
(ii) makes unreasonable noises in a public place;
(iii) makes unreasonable noises in a private place which can be heard in a public place; or
(iv) obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
(2) "Public place," for the purpose of this section, means any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes but is not limited to streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops.
(3) Disorderly conduct is a class C misdemeanor if the offense continues after a request by a person to desist. Otherwise it is an infraction.

I think his behavior fits the first part of the code, the part I bolded. Still, though, it seems that an officer would have to witness it, don't you think?

ETA: I reiterate that he was fined for his behavior, not for paying in pennies.

I disagree. He had a legitimate purpose. He went to the clinic to pay his bill. He disputed the amount owed, therefore chose to pay in pennies - legal tender. How is that disorderly? It sounds like he, a comedian, poured the pennies on the counter in a nonviolent fashion, with some pennies rolling/falling to the floor, so I don't see how they can dispute that it was even hazardous. Everyone in the waiting room found it to be funny, so apparently no one got scared by it. How is it offensive to need to count out 2,500 pennies? Nuisance? yes. Offensive? No. Sounds more like the billing clerk had her undies in a bunch.

b525's picture
Joined: 06/06/07
Posts: 298

"Beertje" wrote:

I disagree. He had a legitimate purpose. He went to the clinic to pay his bill. He disputed the amount owed, therefore chose to pay in pennies - legal tender. How is that disorderly? It sounds like he, a comedian, poured the pennies on the counter in a nonviolent fashion, with some pennies rolling/falling to the floor, so I don't see how they can dispute that it was even hazardous. Everyone in the waiting room found it to be funny, so apparently no one got scared by it. How is it offensive to need to count out 2,500 pennies? Nuisance? yes. Offensive? No. Sounds more like the billing clerk had her undies in a bunch.

I disagree with your disagreement. Smile There was no legitimate purpose in making the mess, which is why he was cited. He wasn't cited for paying his bill. He had all the pennies in a container, inside another bag. There was no need for him to dump the change all over the place. If he were just there to pay the bill, he could have set the bag or the container on the counter. I'd be more likely to think of it as a "physically offensive condition," rather than a hazardous one.

Now, I'm not saying he *should* have been cited. I think it's a ridiculous, melodramatic action on the part of the receptionist/billing clerk and the police should have refused to issue a citation. But, they didn't, and I can see how the Utah code could support their decision. I still think they should have had a witness, other than the aggrieved, to be able to fine him. I don't think it'll stick.

RebeccaA'07's picture
Joined: 11/19/07
Posts: 1628

"culturedmom" wrote:

As long as pennies are money in this country, then he has every right to pay in pennies. What they should have done is asked him to bring them back rolled. I hope he pays the $140 fine in pennies.

Yep, my thoughts exactly. He could have had a better approach, but until pennies are no longer considerend currency in the US...

Joined: 01/01/06
Posts: 262

So what is the "physically offensive condition"? That's the only part of the law this could even remotely fall under... I do see it as a pain to pick up a few coins off the ground, but physically offensive? Money isn't that offensive to me whether it's on the ground or on the counter...

Joined: 01/01/06
Posts: 262

"wlillie" wrote:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705373959/Peeved-patient-proud-of-penny-protest.html?pg=2

West is accused of unnecessarily causing alarm when he unloaded 2,500 pennies onto a receptionist's counter at the clinic to settle his bill
...
Basin Clinic's doctors issued a brief statement Tuesday saying the clinic has "always accepted all legal currency as payment.”

“We will not tolerate pennies or any other objects being thrown at our employees,” the statement said.
....
Some of the coins, he acknowledges, spilled onto the desk below where the receptionist was seated and onto the floor

Back to this statement from the article....to me it shows just how over-reactive the company was. The pennies weren't THROWN. They were dumped and rolled off the counter.

b525's picture
Joined: 06/06/07
Posts: 298

"runningmom" wrote:

So what is the "physically offensive condition"? That's the only part of the law this could even remotely fall under... I do see it as a pain to pick up a few coins off the ground, but physically offensive? Money isn't that offensive to me whether it's on the ground or on the counter...

No, money isn't offensive to me, either. But, I could see that it might be considered offensive to have your workspace completely covered with something that was not yours, didn't belong there, and was deliberately put there by someone else.

ETA: AND, some of the stuff that was dumped on the workspace fell on you. I'm trying to picture the scenario and how it might play out at my workplace. I'd be annoyed if some student came in and tossed all their books onto my desk and one fell off and hit me. Yes, a book is heavier than a penny, but the concept is the same.

Joined: 06/04/07
Posts: 1368

"b525" wrote:

No, money isn't offensive to me, either. But, I could see that it might be considered offensive to have your workspace completely covered with something that was not yours, didn't belong there, and was deliberately put there by someone else.

ETA: AND, some of the stuff that was dumped on the workspace fell on you. I'm trying to picture the scenario and how it might play out at my workplace. I'd be annoyed if some student came in and tossed all their books onto my desk and one fell off and hit me. Yes, a book is heavier than a penny, but the concept is the same.

But she's the billing clerk who receives the payments, no? So didn't the pennies belong on her desk, in her possession? Annoyed? Yes. Offensive? I still don't see it.

b525's picture
Joined: 06/06/07
Posts: 298

A quote from the article:
"The police report from the incident states that West told clinic workers he was “'sorry' for what he was about to do” and dumped pennies from a cardboard box, which was found in the clinic waiting room, on the front counter.

West, however, says he had carried the 14 pounds of loose pennies in a large bowl inside a black plastic sack. He admits to pouring them onto the top counter. Some of the coins, he acknowledges, spilled onto the desk below where the receptionist was seated and onto the floor."

Several things:
1. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but now he's wondering why he got in trouble.
2. He dumped it on the front counter and it spilled onto the *receptionist's* desk, not the billing clerk's desk.

Also from the article: "West's actions “served no legitimate purpose,” Campbell said." I would agree with that. What was the purpose of this action? I'd say it was to cause them inconvenience as a means of getting back at them for causing him inconvenience. In fact, here's what he said: "West said he wasn't trying to harm anyone or cause alarm; he was only trying to show his frustration over the poor customer service he believes he received from the clinic's billing department, and do it in a humorous way." So, his purpose was to show his frustration. He wasn't innocently trying to pay his bill. If he was just trying to pay his bill, he could have just put the bowl on the counter. The whole point of his action was to cause trouble.

Starryblue702's picture
Joined: 04/06/11
Posts: 5454

I disagree with him dumping them all over the place, but hey, IMO money is money and if you don't want pennies then don't take cash!