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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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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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