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Judges disagree on when escape occurs

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The Indiana Court of Appeals had to decide whether inmates in a jail could be charged with escape if they never left the outer walls of the facility. The majority affirmed the dismissal of the escape charges against the six inmates, ruling the act was just a violation of prison rules. The dissenting judge believed that based on statute, the inmates could be charged with escape.

In State of Indiana v. Misty Moore, et al., No. 28A01-0903-CR-111, Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Patricia Riley examined Indiana Code Section 35-44-3-5(a), which defines when someone commits Class C felony escape, and determined the facts of the case don't support criminal charges.

To prove the inmates committed escape, the state had to establish they intentionally fled from lawful detention, which in this case was a penal facility. Misty Moore and five other female inmates climbed through the ceiling of their jail cells to reach the male cell block, where they would fraternize with the male inmates at night.

The majority dismissed a number of cases from other jurisdictions the state argued support its argument, and instead relied on Louisiana v. Liggertt, 363 So.2d 1184 (La. 1978), State v. Davis, 271 N.W.2d 693 (Iowa 1978), and State v. Buck, 724 S.W.2d 574 (Mo. Ct. App. 1986), in which other courts have reached the same conclusion as the trial court in the instant case - that rules may have been broken but no crime was committed, wrote Chief Judge Baker.

"We acknowledge that the relevant statutes could be drafted more artfully and explicitly, but given the well-established rules that we construe penal statutes strictly against the State and that ambiguities should be resolved in favor of the accused... close calls such as this one must be resolved in the defendants' favor," he wrote.

Judge Ezra Friedlander found the cases that the majority dismissed to be instructive and believed the statute applies even when an incarcerated person escapes from a cell, but didn't intend to leave the boundaries of the penal facility. Judge Friedlander relied on Crowder v. State, 812 S.W.2d 63 (Tx. Crim. App. 1991), State v. Sugden, 422 N.W.2d 624 (Wisc. 1988), and State v. Padilla, 113 P.3d 1260 (Colo. Ct. App. 2005), in which those cases relied on similar language as found in Indiana's statute.

"Drawing from these cases, it cannot seriously be argued that it does not promote public safety or facilitate efficient institutional administration to read 'flees from lawful detention' so narrowly as to exclude the act of breaking out of an area of confinement within the walls of a detention facility, for whatever purpose and with the intent to go anywhere else, whether within or without the outer boundaries of that facility," he wrote.

Judge Friedlander also takes issue with the majority's stance that it seems escaping out of a cell is either the crime of escape or a matter of prison discipline. Breaking out of a cell can be both, he wrote. If a prisoner assaults another inmate, he can be punished by the facility and also face criminal charges. The judge also noted that in past versions of the escape statute, the legislature was more specific in defining escape as leaving the boundaries of particular facilities.

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  1. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  2. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  3. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  4. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  5. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

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