A teen who refused to stand up or pull up his pants when ordered by a police officer did not resist law enforcement, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.
In , 49A04-0912-JV-682, A.C. appealed his adjudication for committing what would be Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement if committed by an adult. Officer Richard Stratman was dispatched to the lobby regarding the recovery of a runaway juvenile. A.C. was in the lobby of an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department district headquarters with his mother.
A.C. didn’t answer Stratman’s questions, refused to stand up, and didn’t pull his pants up when asked. When the officer attempted to pull them up, A.C. pulled away a little and pulled down part of his pants. A.C. also leaned his weight and pulled away from Stratman’s grasp.
A.C. was committed to the Department of Correction but the juvenile court suspended the commitment and put him on probation.
The Court of Appeals delved into previous caselaw on forcible resistance, referencing Spangler v. State, 607 N.E.2d 720 (Ind. 1993), Johnson v. State, 833 N.E.2d 516 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), Graham v. State, 903 N.E.2d 963 (Ind. 2009), and Colvin v. State, 916 N.E.2d 306 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010).
The Graham court confirmed that it is error as a matter of law to conclude that “forcibly resists” includes all actions that are not passive. Graham refused to put his hands up and give his arms for cuffing. In Colvin, the appellate court noted that the officers testified that Colvin wasn’t complying with the officers’ commands and the officers had to use force to arrest Colvin. Colvin refused to take his hands out of his pockets. Neither case had sufficient evidence to show the defendants forcibly resisted officers.
“Here, there is even less evidence of forcible resistance than in either Graham or Colvin,” wrote Judge Terry Crone. “We observe that although A.C. did not stand up when asked, Officer Stratman pulled him to his feet without resistance. A.C.’s simple failure to stand, without more, amounts to passive inaction and seems analogous to the failure to present one’s arms for handcuffing, which our supreme court has said does not constitute forcible resistance.”
The judge also noted that leaning away and pulling down one’s pants don’t constitute forceful resistance to the performance of Stratman’s duties. Stratman never had to struggle to cuff A.C. or to get him to see medics for an arm injury.
“While A.C.’s conduct may have justified a physical response from the officer, that does not equate to criminal conduct as to A.C. under the supreme court’s current definition of resisting law enforcement,” wrote Judge Crone.