Judge: better to assess defendant under mental health law, not criminal one

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In a resisting arrest and battery case that drew opinions from each of the sitting judges on the Indiana Court of Appeals panel, Judge Paul Mathias addressed the issue of whether the defendant suffered from a mental illness. He urged law enforcement to consider mental health intervention to treat troubled – but innocuous – conduct instead of relying on criminal law.

Phillip Griffin appealed his convictions of Class A misdemeanors resisting law enforcement and battery upon a law enforcement officer that stemmed from his fleeing from Lawrence police officer Matthew Miller. Miller stopped his patrol car after passing Griffin and believing he may be mentally unstable. Griffin shouted at the officer, threw “shadow punches” at the officer and then ran. Miller pursued and used his Taser; Griffin hit Miller as the officer attempted to handcuff him.

Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard wrote for the majority, which reversed the resisting conviction, but upheld the battery conviction. Shepard and Judge Paul Mathias departed from Cole v. State, 878 N.E.2d 882, 884 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), and its line of cases, in which the appeals court held that the resisting statute does not require that the order to stop be lawful. The majority focused on the state’s lack of evidence demonstrating grounds for detention.

“In the present case, the State explicitly argues that it need not establish any facts giving rise to probable cause or articulable suspicion that would have warranted detaining Griffin in order to sustain the conviction. Griffin appeared to Miller to be unstable, and he threw ‘shadow punches’ from a considerable distance before running away, but none of Griffin’s actions suggested any criminal offense,” Shepard wrote in Phillip Griffin v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1212-CR-964.

The majority declined to reweigh the evidence regarding the battery conviction and upheld it. Shepard and Mathias also reversed the order that Griffin perform community service in lieu of paying court costs and remanded to address the question of payment.

Judge L. Mark Bailey dissented from his colleagues regarding the reversal of the resisting law enforcement conviction. He cited Cole in support of his argument, writing he would follow the settled law as discussed in that case.

Mathias devoted his opinion to addressing concerns with Miller’s conduct in the case, especially since he suspected Griffin may suffer from a mental illness at the time in question. There are many people who appeared “troubled” but not to such an extent that requires an officer to intervene because he or she seems to be dangerous or disabled, he pointed out.

“Finally, it is important to remember that Officer Miller did what he was trained to do in the situation. What I hope and mean to suggest is that law enforcement officials throughout Indiana can best reaffirm their commitment to serve all of Indiana’s citizens by remembering the criteria for mental health intervention as an initial alternative to treating troubling and troubled, but otherwise innocuous, conduct as a possible crime,” Mathias wrote.


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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