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COA affirms resisting police conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was hesitant to rely on an Indiana Supreme Court case’s definition of “forcibly resist” because that language doesn’t appear to adequately describe the meaning of the phrase as it has been recently applied.

In Jose Lopez v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0908-CR-464, Jose Lopez appealed his Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement conviction, arguing the evidence of his case showed he was standing his ground and the evidence is insufficient to show he “forcibly” resisted the officers’ attempts to handcuff him.

Two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officers responded to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment where they found Lopez. Lopez didn’t want to answer the officers’ questions, repeatedly refused to give his name, and when they tried to handcuff him, he resisted. Lopez crossed his arms, pulled away, and continued to refuse to give his hands. He was stunned by a Taser and later put his arms behind his back to be handcuffed.

The COA looked to its own caselaw as well as that from the Supreme Court, including Spangler v. State, 607 N.E.2d 720, 723 (Ind. 1993), and Johnson v. State, 833 N.E.2d 516 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005). In Spangler, the justices ruled someone forcibly resists law enforcement when “strong, powerful, violent means are used to evade a law enforcement official’s rightful exercise of his or her duties.” In Johnson, the panel noted “until we are instructed otherwise by our Supreme Court, we see no reason to apply what appears to be an overly strict definition of forcibly resist.”

Then, in Graham v. State, 903 N.E.2d 963 (Ind. 2009), the high court approved of the language used in Spangler to define “forcibly resist,” while simultaneously approving the holding in Johnson.

“Although the Graham court acknowledged that that the resistance described in Johnson was “modest,” … the Graham court apparently overlooked the Johnson court’s explicit acknowledgement that it was modifying the language of Spangler,” wrote Judge Terry Crone. “Accordingly, we are somewhat hesitant to rely on Spangler’s strong language because it does not appear to adequately describe the meaning of “forcibly resist” as it has more recently been applied.”

But the Court of Appeals found Lopez’s case to be similar to that in Johnson in which the court found sufficient evidence of “forcibly” resisting law enforcement when the defendant turned away and stiffened up.

Lopez did more than passively resist arrest. If the officers couldn’t pull his arms out from under him, it is reasonable to infer that he was forcibly resisting their efforts rather than remaining entirely passive. But Judge Crone also noted the courts can't rely on the amount of force law enforcement uses to subdue a defendant to determine if someone “forcibly resists” because that could lead to law enforcement using more excessive force.

 

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  1. Other than a complete lack of any verifiable and valid historical citations to back your wild context-free accusations, you also forget to allege "ate Native American children, ate slave children, ate their own children, and often did it all while using salad forks rather than dinner forks." (gasp)

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  4. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

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