Monday, June 30, 2014

Indiana Supreme Court Overturns Man's Conviction for Resisting Arrest After Refusing IMPD Police Order to Stop

The Indiana Supreme court threw out Keion Gaddie's conviction for Resisting Law Enforcement after unanimously concluding that police did not have probable cause to detain the man.  This decision will likely change the way police officers throughout the state conduct themselves in situations where no crimes have been committed.   In many jurisdictions; however, police officers are not properly trained, so citizens must be diligent in understanding their rights when dealing with law enforcement.

"To avoid conflict with the Fourth Amendment, Indiana code section 35-44.1-3-1(a)(3), the statute defining the offense of Resisting Law Enforcement by fleeing after being ordered to stop must be construed to require that a law enforcement officer's order to stop be based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  Under the facts and circumstances of this case, a reasonable trier of fact could not have found that the officer's order to stop was based on such probable cause or reasonable suspicion.  The evidence was thus insufficient to convict the defendant of the crime of Resisting Law Enforcement by fleeing a police order to stop.  We reverse the judgment of the trial court," read the conclusion.

It all began on August 4, 2012 when IMPD Officer Jeffery Newlin responded to a report of a "disturbance" at an Indianapolis residence.  When the officer arrived he saw about eight people, including the defendant, standing on the front porch walking along a side yard toward the back.  Officer Newlin ordered the group to return to the front yard so he could watch them until back-up arrived; however, Gaddie continued walking toward an alley.  Officer Newlin followed him, screaming at him to stop; however, Gaddie continued to walk ignoring the commands of the officer.

Gaddie was charged with Resisting Law Enforcement by fleeing even though the officer admitted that he had not seen the defendant or anyone else commit a crime prior to ordering Gaddie to stop.  The defendant testified that he lived at the residence where the incident occurred.  The trial court found the defendant guilty at the bench trial.

The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, and the IMPD asked the Indiana Supreme Court to hear the case.  The Indiana Supreme Court justices unanimously sided with the Indiana Court of Appeals in deciding that Gaddie's arrest was not warranted since he committed no crime and was under no obligation to obey the commands of the police officer to stop.

"We note that the evidence clearly establishes that the defendant disregarded and walked away from a law enforcement officer who had adequately identified himself.  Because the defendant's argument focuses on whether the defendant had a duty to stop, we view his claim as alleging insufficient evidence to prove the element "after the officer has ... ordered the person to stop," wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

"The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that the right of the people to be secure in their persons against unreasonable search and seizure shall not be violated...At minimum, the government's seizure of a citizen must rest on specific, articulable facts that lead an officer to reasonably suspect that criminal activity is afoot."

Later in the decision, Justice Dickson writes, "A person's well-established freedom to walk about is thus violated when that person is subjected to a statute that makes it a criminal offense to decline a police order to stop.  To hold that a citizen may be criminally prosecuted for fleeing after being ordered to stop by a law enforcement officer lacking reasonable suspicion or probable cause to command such an involuntary detention would undermine longstanding search and seizure precedent that establishes the principle that an individual has a right to ignore police and go about his business."

"We agree with the State that the language of the Resisting Law Enforcement statute, on its face, does not expressly require that the order to stop by lawful.  Literally applied, however, the 'after the officer has ... ordered the person to stop' element of the statute, if applied in the absence of probable cause or reasonable suspicion, constitutes an unreasonable detention and impairs a citizen's 'right to ignore the police and go about his business..."

We hope that police department leaders throughout Indiana will educate all Indiana police officers about this ruling so that fundamental rights of unsuspecting citizens will no longer be violated, because of a perceived conflict between a mere statute of the state and that of the United States constitution.

This apparent conflict occurs too often throughout our state.

You can read the entire ruling at this link.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Indiana Court of Appeals Overturns Conviction For Resisting Arrest; Says Passive Resistance Does Not Equal Forcible Resistance

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently overturned the resisting arrest conviction of a Lake County woman, which appears to be good news for Erin Gardner, the local woman who was arrested by LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb last year during a minor traffic stop.   Webb was caught on camera as he violently yanked Gardner from the back seat of her friend's vehicle.  (See Lafayette Woman Seeks Jury Trial)

Gardner says she was injured by Officer Jeffrey Webb
Gardner was injured in the process. During the verbal exchange, Gardner questioned Webb's demands that she provide a driver's license since she was merely a passenger and had not commited a crime.  She was subsequently charged with failure to identify and resisting arrest even though she provided her social security number and date of birth during the traffic stop. 

Gardner claims she did not resist arrest, nor did she refuse to identify herself and that she looks forward to her day in court.

After Gardner went public with her story via this blog, prosecutors added an additional charge of marijuana possession, which she says amounts to malicious prosecution.  Gardner had an empty container with marijuana residue in her possession, which was found during an invasive body search.  

In light of the appeals court's recent ruling, it is questionable as to whether the charges against Gardner would stand a constitutional challenge.   Lawyers have indicated that since the resisting charge was improper the subsequent charges should also be dismissed.  Gardner says she has been in contact with attorneys at the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, and that they are currently reviewing her case after initially receiving positive feedback.

Lafayette native Judge Margaret Robb wrote the majority opinion for the Lake County case and stated that "a mere refusal to stand or some other act of passive resistance does not amount to forcible resistance."

Maddox Macy, the Lake County defendant, was arrested by Officer Roger Bowland after the woman began yelling at him, demanding answers and exclaiming that her dogs had not bitten anyone after one of her neighbors made the claim.  Macy was warned several times by the officer to calm down or she would be arrested.

"Macy's hands were handcuffed behind her back, and Officer Bowland placed Macy in the front seat of his police car and shut the door," read a portion of Robb's ruling.  "Macy somehow opened the door, got out of the car, and began yelling once again.  Officer Bowland 'had to force [Macy] into the car and she sat down and kept her feet out on the ground...'  Officer Bowland asked Macy to place her feet inside the vehicle, but she refused, so the officer 'had to pick her feet up, put her feet into the car and shut the door."

Officr Bowland stated that Macy resisted his commands and would not get back into the car.

"She refused and I had to place her in the car and then she wouldn't put her feet into the car.  I had to place her feet into the car," stated Bowland.

Macy was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement.  She was found guilty after a bench trial was held.

In the ruling, Robb noted that the Indiana Supreme Court "has noted that the statute 'does not demand complete passivity.'"

"Merely walking away from a law-enforcement encounter, leaning away from an officer's grasp, or twisting and turning a little bit against an officer's actions do not establish 'forcible' resistance."

The ruling also noted an earlier decision by the Indiana Supreme Court wherein the justices overturned a juvenile adjudication "for resisting law enforcement after concluding there was not sufficient evidence the juvenile forcibly resisted."  In that case, the juvenile "began to resist and pull away" from a school liaison officer who grabbed him by the arm and attempted to handcuff him.

Robb cited several Indiana Supreme Court rulings, which she relied on for her decision to overturn Macy's conviction.
"The [Indiana Supreme] court opined that a mere refusal to stand or some other act of passive resistance does not amount to forcible resistance," wrote Robb.

"The court also noted that an officer's use of force in response to passive resistance is not evidence of forcible resistance."

It is clear to this writer and many others who reviewed the video footage that Gardner did not resist arrest.  After being harassed to provide a driver's license that she did not legally have to provide, she was violently yanked from the passenger's seat.  Gardner did nothing wrong.  There was no probable cause to even question this woman.  The car was at a complete stop before any officer approached, so there was no possible way for them to know whether or not Gardner was wearing a seatbelt when the car was in motion.

We find it appalling that Prosecutor Pat Harrington is wasting tax dollars to pursue this bogus case. 

Jeffrey Webb and his cohorts should be reprimanded for their deplorable actions.  There are several LPD officers who should be sent to remediation school to brush up on the constitution.

Stop the madness, Pat!