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Officer’s ‘ruse’ to enter home leads to reversal of resisting conviction

February 26, 2014

A police officer who lied to a woman in order to gain entry into her home was not lawfully engaged in the execution of his duties, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, so the judges reversed a woman’s resisting law enforcement conviction.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer James Gillespie responded to a call from Robin Harper regarding a domestic dispute with her husband. She was outside when the officer arrived and explained the situation. Then Gillespie and officer Scott Hartman located her husband, who had some minor injuries from the incident.

When officers went back to Harper’s residence to arrest her for domestic battery, she refused to open her screen door and allow them inside. She also refused to step outside, so Gillespie told Harper she needed to sign a protective order. When she opened the screen door, the officers stepped inside to arrest her.

She was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest when she pulled away from Hartman as he tried to remove her wedding ring after she was in handcuffs. She was found guilty at a bench trial.

“In the case before us, Harper never abandoned the privacy interest in her home. She simply opened her front, prime door to answer Officer Gillespie’s knock, and after she did so, she stood behind the closed screen door to speak with him,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in Robin Harper v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1305-CR-222. “Harper never crossed the threshold of her residence onto her stoop or porch. In addition, Harper expressly denied the officers entry to her home, and rather than obtain a standard warrant for her arrest, Officer Gillespie chose to use fraud to enter the residence to arrest her.”

The judges found that since the officers unlawfully entered Harper’s home, they were not engaged in the lawful execution of their duties at the time they arrested Harper and attempted to remove her ring in preparation for booking.
 

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