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Judge believes caselaw has ‘unintended consequences’ for residents, law enforcement

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In a divided opinion in which the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s resisting law enforcement finding and probation revocation, Judge Paul Mathias worried that relying on certain caselaw would have “unintended consequences” for Hoosiers and police officers.

Donald Murdock was on probation when a police officer saw him run outside of a vacant apartment. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Vincent Stewart was responding to a call regarding a person fleeing from another officer. Stewart chased Murdock, identified himself as an officer and ordered him to stop. Murdock shoved Stewart; Stewart was able to take him into custody after pepper spraying Murdock.

The trial court ordered Murdock serve 3 ½ years of his previously suspended sentence after finding he violated his probation by committing Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement.

Murdock does not dispute that he fled from Stewart after being told to stop but claimed that the trial court erred in finding that he committed Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement because Stewart allegedly lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him.

In Donald Murdock v. State of Indiana, 48A02-1306-CR-565, Judges Cale Bradford and Rudolph Pyle III affirmed, citing a long line of cases, starting with Corbin v. State, 568 N.E.2d 1064, 1065 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), that have held that even if a police officer does not have reasonable suspicion to stop a defendant, the defendant has no right to flee when the officer orders him to stop.

Bradford also wrote in a footnote, “Murdock relies on a recent decision from this court to support his argument that he had a right to flee from an illegal detention, Gaddie v. State, 991 N.E.2d 137, 141 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), trans. granted, opinion vacated, 999 N.E.2d 417 (Ind. 2012). Gaddie, however, has been vacated by order of the Indiana Supreme Court. Unless and until the Indiana Supreme Court determines that one has the right to flee from an unlawful police request to stop, we shall follow the myriad Indiana cases holding that one has no such right.”

Judge Paul Mathias dissented, citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), and Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 363 (Ind. 2005).

Corbin and its progeny provide Hoosiers with some stark choices. If an otherwise law-abiding citizen chooses to walk on, rather than engage in a conversation offered by a law enforcement officer, is that conduct resisting law enforcement? If it is not, then why shouldn’t the law and common sense demand that the officer have the articulable facts and reasonable suspicion called for in Terry before that conduct becomes the crime of resisting law enforcement? Do we as a society want to empower law enforcement to be able to stop anyone, at any time, without articulable facts that lead an officer to reasonable suspicion that criminal activity may be afoot? I hope not,” he wrote.

“If otherwise law-abiding citizens cannot legally refuse to engage with a law enforcement officer, then there is no such thing as a consensual encounter between law enforcement officers and citizens. Every such encounter would be a seizure under the law and would require the administration of a Miranda advisement. Is that that kind of society we want to live in? Does law enforcement want to lose the helpful tool of consensual encounters with citizens? I hope not.”

 

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