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Judges reverse woman’s resisting law enforcement conviction

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Opening a police officer’s car door and refusing to place one’s feet inside the car are not acts constituting forcible resistance, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The judges reversed a Miami County woman’s conviction of resisting law enforcement.

Officer Roger Bowland and two animal control officers went to Maddox Macy’s home on the report that her neighbor had been bitten by two dogs owned by Macy. Macy made a scene as Bowland left her home to talk to the neighbor, yelling at the officers that her dogs did not bite anyone. She was placed under arrest, handcuffed and placed in the front seat of Bowland’s police car. She somehow opened the shut door, got out and yelled some more. She then refused to place her feet inside the vehicle after Bowland forced her back inside. He picked them up, put them in the car and then shut the door.

Maddox was convicted of Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct and Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, but she only appealed her resisting conviction.

In Maddox T. Macy v. State of Indiana, 52A02-1309-CR-808, the appeals court noted that the definition of “forcibly” within the resisting law enforcement statute, as outlined in Spangler v. State, 670 N.E.2d 720, 723 (Ind. 1993), has “softened” and become “blurry, to say the least.”

However, each case affirming a conviction of forcible resistance seems to involve, at a minimum, some physical interaction with a law enforcement officer, the judges noted. Macy’s act of opening the car door did not involve any interaction with Bowland, nor was it directed toward him or did it present a threat to him.

“While it is possible that Macy’s conduct may qualify as some other crime, it was not a crime of forcible resistance,” Judge Margret Robb wrote.

The judges also found Macy’s refusal to place her feet inside the vehicle was an act of passive resistance that is not punishable under Indiana Code 35-44.1-3-1(a)(1).

“Finally, we would be remiss not to address the State’s claim that forcible resistance by Macy may be reasonably inferred based on Officer Bowland’s testimony that he had to ‘force’ Macy back into the car and physically pick up her feet and place them in the vehicle,” she wrote. “We disagree for two reasons. First, an officer’s use of force does not establish that the defendant forcibly resisted. Second, on cross-examination, Officer Bowland was asked whether Macy ever physically resisted him, at which point Officer Bowland clarified that Macy resisted his commands. In light of that testimony, we do not believe the evidence supports the State’s proposed inference.”

 

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