ILNews

Court: amended charges not allowed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reinstated one conviction and reversed two others for a man charged with resisting law enforcement, auto theft, and battery.

At issue in Donyea Fowler v. State of Indiana, No. 71A05-0704-CR-200, is whether the trial court properly reversed Fowler's conviction of resisting law enforcement. Fowler also appealed his convictions of auto theft and battery, arguing the charges were added after the time allowed by Indiana statutes.

Police officers from several departments showed up to the home where Fowler lived with his mother in South Bend. Police spoke first with Fowler's mother and told them they were there to arrest Fowler on a felony warrant. When Fowler entered the room and provided a false name to police, Fowler's mother told him to go into a bedroom and ignore the police officers.

Fowler ran into a back bedroom and tried to leave through a window, but a police officer was waiting outside. Fowler jumped back into the room and slammed the window down on the police officer's arm.

Fowler escaped through another bedroom window, stole a vehicle, and was later arrested for resisting law enforcement as a Class D felony. The trial court never set an omnibus date at the initial hearing in May 2005.

The state filed a motion nearly a year later to amend the original charging information to include battery and auto theft, both Class D felonies. Fowler objected, but the trial court amended the charging information and set an omnibus date for Nov. 16, 2006, more than a year after he was originally arrested for resisting law enforcement.

A jury convicted Fowler on all three counts, but the trial court granted Fowler's motion for judgment on the evidence and reversed his conviction for resisting law enforcement.

The appellate court reversed Fowler's convictions of auto theft and battery, finding the amended charges were not filed within the timeframe required by Indiana statute. Omnibus dates must be set by the judicial officer at the initial hearing between 45 and 75 days after the initial hearing. Indiana Code at the time of Fowler's arrest stated that amended matters of substance may be added up to 30 days before the omnibus date.

Fowler's omnibus date should have been held sometime between early July and mid-August 2005, according to Indiana statute, and amended charges had to be filed 30 days prior to that. Since the trial court erred in permitting the amendments, Fowler's convictions for auto theft and battery are reversed, Judge Carr Darden wrote.

The state appealed the trial court's reversal of Fowler's conviction of resisting law enforcement. The trial court stated it granted the motion because no evidence was presented to demonstrate the officers ordered Fowler to stop, however, the appellate court found sufficient evidence to uphold the conviction. To be charged with resisting law enforcement, a person has to "knowingly or intentionally flee from a law enforcement officer after the officer has ... identified himself or herself and ordered the person to stop," but that order does not have to be an audible order of stop, wrote Judge Darden.

The order to stop can be given through visual indicators, which happened in this case. The law enforcement officers were easily identified as such and were there to arrest Fowler. After he went into the back bedroom, several officers ordered him to come back. In addition, once Fowler tried to leave through the bedroom window, he slammed the window down on a police officer's arm to get away.

Because of this evidence, the appellate court determined the lower court had erred in granting Fowler's motion for judgment on the evidence, and his conviction of resisting law enforcement is reinstated.
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