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Clenched fist and aggressive behavior merit resisting law enforcement conviction

December 13, 2013

The Indiana Supreme Court acknowledged that precedent does not provide a clear definition of “resisting arrest,” but still the court knew it when it saw it in a case where a man was subdued with a Taser after ignoring a police officer’s order to get down on the ground.  

Demetrius Walker appealed his conviction for resisting law enforcement as a Class A misdemeanor, arguing the evidence was insufficient.

He was arguing with another man in the middle of an intersection when Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jason Ehret arrived at the scene and ordered both individuals to lay down. The pair continued to argue and began hitting each other.

After Ehret warned he would use his Taser if they did not comply, the man Walker was arguing with dropped to the ground. However, Walker began walking towards Ehret “in an aggressive manner” with his fists clenched. Ehret continued to warn Walker, and he eventually used the Taser to subdue him.  

The Supreme Court noted not every response to police rises to the level of resisting law enforcement. But “forcibly” resisting, obstructing or interfering, even with only modest exertion of strength and without physical contact, does meet the threshold.

In Demetrius Walker v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1312-CR-804, the Supreme Court found Walker’s actions of ignoring Ehret’s repeated warnings and advancing to near striking distance with fists clenched was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction.
 
Walker argued his actions did not constitute resistance to law enforcement. He did not display a weapon and there was no evidence of any aggressive behavior directed at the officer.

The Supreme Court disagreed. It held Walker’s fists were weapons. Also the evidence did not indicate to whom Walker’s aggression was aimed and why his fists were clenched.

“And as for his argument that he showed no evidence of ‘purposefully aggressive behavior in defiance of arrest,’ we note first the statute does not require his action to specifically be ‘in defiance of arrest,’ only a forcible resistance, obstruction, or interference with Officer Ehret’s execution of his duties,” Justice Steven David wrote for the court. “And second, if advancing in an aggressive manner and with fist clenched to within three or four feet of the only police officer on the scene, who has been ordering you to the ground, is not at least ‘purposefully aggressive behavior,’ then we are not clear what conduct might ever merit such a label.”
 

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