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Dissenting judge argues tenants can’t ask drunk, disorderly man outside door to leave

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An argument that tenants of an apartment complex may not ask a drunk and threatening man to leave common areas convinced one judge, but the majority of an appeals panel found otherwise, warning that such a holding would “defy logic and lead to an absurd result.”

A divided Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed multiple convictions in Jeremiah Walls v. State of Indiana, 55A05-1211-CR-603, for which Walls was sentenced to three years in prison.

Walls, intoxicated, rambling and falling down, awoke residents of Countryside Apartments in Martinsville shortly after 5 a.m. on July 1, 2012. He began tapping on a resident’s door with his feet, which awakened the tenant who asked him to leave. Walls later knocked on the resident’s door and asked to spend the night. The resident refused and Walls began pounding on the door and yelling.

Walls later attempted to enter the apartment of another tenant awakened by the disturbance. He tried to kiss her hand and grabbed her neck, according to the record. The woman and her roommate managed to push Walls out and lock the door, after which Walls began banging on that door.

Police soon came and Walls was arrested; the intimidation charges came from his threat to kill an officer and the officer’s father.

A Morgan Superior jury convicted Walls of two counts of Class D felony intimidation and misdemeanor counts of resisting law enforcement, criminal trespass, two counts of battery and disorderly conduct. A divided appeals panel affirmed the conviction and sentence.

Dissenting Judge Patricia Riley said she would affirm all of the convictions against Walls except for criminal trespass. Citing Aberdeen Apartments v. Cary Campbell Realty Alliance, Inc. 820 N.E.2d 158, 164 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), Riley wrote, “Our court has already established case law on this issue, and though it may seem ‘absurd’, this court has strictly interpreted the criminal trespass statute which requires that entry on property be denied by either the owner or its agent.

“Pursuant to Aberdeen,” Riley wrote, “tenants of Countryview Apartments … only had exclusive possession of the apartments they leased and not of the common areas. They could therefore not ask Walls to leave the common areas of the apartment.”

“We need not resolve the precise nature of tenants’ rights to or status when in the common areas of an apartment complex in this case,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote. “We need address only whether (the tenants) had a sufficient interest in their leased apartment units to support their requests for Walls to leave the areas immediately outside their doors.”

“Walls was not merely present in the common areas but also was positioned immediately outside the doors giving access to the leased apartment units, persistently banging on the doors to the units, and in (the roommates’) case, had his foot through the threshold of the door,” the majority held.

“Under the circumstances of this case, the tenants, while not in exclusive control of the common areas, had a sufficient possessory interest in, at a minimum, their apartment doors, the threshold of their apartments, and the immediate adjacent areas by which they accessed their leased apartment units, to request that a person leave that specific area and stop persistently banging on their doors. A rigid rule, applied without exception, that a tenant does not have a sufficient possessory interest in such property would defy logic and lead to an absurd result,” Brown wrote.


 

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  • How much is it going to cost taxpayers/
    We now have a drunk going to prison for up to 3 years and the taxpayers are going to pay for it. The drunk now has a felony on his record and may now become permanently unemployable as no employer will want to hire him. He presumable can get government assistance after he gets out. The county prosecutor needs to think about this.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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