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COA rules police can act reasonably to control investigation scene

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Police were justified in handcuffing a woman who they felt was a safety risk inside her home during an investigation, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Marvelean Williams v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1105-CR-418, the court affirmed a decision by Marion Superior Judge Barbara Collins involving a woman arrested in January 2011. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers were dispatched to the home of Marvelean Williams to investigate a domestic disturbance. They arrested her husband for battery, and Williams became belligerent and refused to follow orders to stay seated. When she tried to go into the kitchen, police were concerned she might try to get a knife or weapon, so they placed her in handcuffs for their safety. She resisted and was charged with resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor. At a bench trial she was found guilty.

On appeal, Williams argues that there is insufficient evidence that the officers were lawfully engaged in execution of their duties when they were inside the home. She doesn’t claim the police were unlawfully inside and doesn’t dispute their investigation of a domestic dispute, but she contends that they didn’t have the authority to order her to stop resisting and stay calm.  Although a previous Court of Appeals ruling from 2007 doesn’t discuss the extent of an officer’s power to control the scene while conducting an investigation, the appellate panel found this situation with Williams presented more of a safety risk than that case. The court found she was actively interfering with their investigation, and they had a right to restrain her.

“Williams has not cited any authority to convince us that the officers acted unlawfully when they handcuffed her for safety reasons while they conducted their investigation, and we are not aware of any such authority,” Judge Terry Crone wrote. “Police have a legal right to take reasonable steps to stabilize a situation such as this during the course of their investigation. This is so for both the safety of the officers as well as the citizens present.”

 

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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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