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Proof of service is state's burden

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed an invasion of privacy conviction today because the state didn't prove the defendant knew he was the subject of an active protective order. The appellate court also concluded that notice of a protective order should come from the state.

Lisa Pitzer, who has a child with Jeffrey Tharp, filed a protective order against him in October 2008. She had the notice served at his mother's house, but it was returned because he had moved. Later, Pitzer attempted to have the order dismissed and believed it was no longer in effect. When Tharp was pulled over while Pitzer was a passenger, they learned the order was still valid. The police officer was told by the communication control operator that the protective order was served. Tharp knew there was a protective order against him because Pitzer had mentioned it, but they thought it had been dismissed.

He was convicted of Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy. After he was arrested, the court dismissed the protective order at Pitzer's request.

The state failed to prove Tharp knowingly or intentionally violated the protective order, the Court of Appeals ruled in Jeffrey Tharp v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0905-CR-394. The state didn't present testimony based on personal knowledge nor did it admit any documentation that Tharp was served. The appellate judges rejected the state's argument that Tharp bore the burden of proving he wasn't served and that Pitzer's oral statement to him about the no contact order was sufficient notice.

The judges concluded the exception recognized in Hendricks v. State, 649 N.E.2d 1050 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995), and Dixon v. State, 869 N.E.2d 516 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), should be narrowly construed to require notice from an agent of the state.

"The facts of this case highlight the importance of service. Although Pitzer told Tharp about the protective order, she also erroneously told him it was no longer in effect," wrote Judge Melissa May. "Tharp should not have to rely on information from a lay person who is not knowledgeable about the status of a legal proceeding."

Placing the burden on a person to find out if a protective order exists would require him to check in multiple courts in multiple counties, which would undermine the importance of service, she continued.

The Court of Appeals also addressed a moot issue: that the trial court erred by delegating to the probation department authority to set the terms and conditions of Tharp's probation. In accordance with Lucas v. State, 501 N.E.2d 480 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986), the trial court should have imposed all conditions when Tharp was sentenced instead of giving the probation department the option to impose additional conditions.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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