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Judges analyze 'use' of body armor for first time

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The Indiana Court of Appeals interpreted the elements of unlawful use of body armor for the first time in a defendant’s appeal of his convictions following his attempt to flee from police.

French Mason appealed his convictions of Class D felonies resisting law enforcement and unlawful use of body armor. Police responded to a burglary in progress report at an Indianapolis apartment complex and began searching for the suspect or suspects. The police saw two men lying in the backseat of a car, identified themselves as police officers, and ordered the men out of the car.

Mason, one of the men in the car, got into the front seat and drove the car toward an officer. After police shot at it a few times, the other passenger got out after the car stopped and he surrendered. Mason kept trying to drive the car, crashing it several times. Police eventually used a Taser on him and took him into custody. Police discovered he was wearing a bullet proof vest while he was being checked out for injuries. Mason claimed to be wearing it because he was trying to sell it to someone in the apartment complex that night.

He was convicted of three counts of resisting law enforcement, which were merged, and one conviction of unlawful use of body armor.

In French C. Mason v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1005-CR-475, the judges affirmed Mason’s conviction of resisting law enforcement – elevated to a Class D felony because he used a vehicle to resist. There was sufficient evidence that Mason knew the men were police officers.

On this challenge to his conviction of unlawful use of body armor, the judges had no caselaw on which to rely. Only one previous case, Haggard v. State, 771 N.E.2d 668 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), discusses the same crime, but doesn’t clarify what constitutes “use” of body armor.

The judges believed there to be two possible interpretations of “use” under the statute defining unlawful use of body armor: that merely wearing body armor constitutes use; or that in order to “use” body armor, one must expect it to afford reasonable protection during the commission of a felony.

Using the definition of “use” as provided in the Webster’s II New College Dictionary, they chose the interpretation that a defendant must “knowingly or intentionally” use body armor as protection in the course of a felony.

“Here, Mason does not dispute that he knowingly or intentionally wore body armor, but he does dispute that he knowingly or intentionally wore it as protection against law enforcement,” wrote Judge Patricia Riley. “We cannot agree with this assertion, however. We have previously held that ‘intent is a mental function and without a confession, it must be determined from a consideration of the conduct, and the natural consequences of the conduct.’ Accordingly, intent may be proven by circumstantial evidence.”

They found sufficient evidence to show Mason intended to wear the body armor to protect him in the commission of resisting law enforcement.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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