Judges disagree on when escape occurs

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals had to decide whether inmates in a jail could be charged with escape if they never left the outer walls of the facility. The majority affirmed the dismissal of the escape charges against the six inmates, ruling the act was just a violation of prison rules. The dissenting judge believed that based on statute, the inmates could be charged with escape.

In State of Indiana v. Misty Moore, et al., No. 28A01-0903-CR-111, Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Patricia Riley examined Indiana Code Section 35-44-3-5(a), which defines when someone commits Class C felony escape, and determined the facts of the case don't support criminal charges.

To prove the inmates committed escape, the state had to establish they intentionally fled from lawful detention, which in this case was a penal facility. Misty Moore and five other female inmates climbed through the ceiling of their jail cells to reach the male cell block, where they would fraternize with the male inmates at night.

The majority dismissed a number of cases from other jurisdictions the state argued support its argument, and instead relied on Louisiana v. Liggertt, 363 So.2d 1184 (La. 1978), State v. Davis, 271 N.W.2d 693 (Iowa 1978), and State v. Buck, 724 S.W.2d 574 (Mo. Ct. App. 1986), in which other courts have reached the same conclusion as the trial court in the instant case - that rules may have been broken but no crime was committed, wrote Chief Judge Baker.

"We acknowledge that the relevant statutes could be drafted more artfully and explicitly, but given the well-established rules that we construe penal statutes strictly against the State and that ambiguities should be resolved in favor of the accused... close calls such as this one must be resolved in the defendants' favor," he wrote.

Judge Ezra Friedlander found the cases that the majority dismissed to be instructive and believed the statute applies even when an incarcerated person escapes from a cell, but didn't intend to leave the boundaries of the penal facility. Judge Friedlander relied on Crowder v. State, 812 S.W.2d 63 (Tx. Crim. App. 1991), State v. Sugden, 422 N.W.2d 624 (Wisc. 1988), and State v. Padilla, 113 P.3d 1260 (Colo. Ct. App. 2005), in which those cases relied on similar language as found in Indiana's statute.

"Drawing from these cases, it cannot seriously be argued that it does not promote public safety or facilitate efficient institutional administration to read 'flees from lawful detention' so narrowly as to exclude the act of breaking out of an area of confinement within the walls of a detention facility, for whatever purpose and with the intent to go anywhere else, whether within or without the outer boundaries of that facility," he wrote.

Judge Friedlander also takes issue with the majority's stance that it seems escaping out of a cell is either the crime of escape or a matter of prison discipline. Breaking out of a cell can be both, he wrote. If a prisoner assaults another inmate, he can be punished by the facility and also face criminal charges. The judge also noted that in past versions of the escape statute, the legislature was more specific in defining escape as leaving the boundaries of particular facilities.


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.