A man who walked away from police after they ordered him to stop was wrongly convicted of resisting law enforcement, the Indiana Supreme Court held Friday in one of two cases that reviewed the statute.
“A person's well-established freedom to walk away is … violated when that person is subjected to a statute that makes it a criminal offense to decline a police order to stop,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the court in Keion Gaddie v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1312-CR-789.
“To hold that a citizen may be criminally prosecuted for fleeing after being ordered to stop by a law enforcement officer lacking reasonable suspicion or probable cause to command such an involuntary detention would undermine longstanding search and seizure precedent that establishes the principle that an individual has a right to ignore police and go about his business,” Dickson wrote.
Gaddie was on his property when police responded to a nighttime disturbance involving a number of people. As police arrived and ordered everyone to the front yard of the property, Gaddie walked toward the back, and kept walking as an officer identified himself and ordered him to stop.
Gaddie was convicted after a bench trial at which he testified that he had been preparing to leave before police arrived. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, and the Supreme Court agreed.
“To avoid conflict with the Fourth Amendment, Indiana Code section 35-44.1-3-1(a)(3), the statute defining the offense of Resisting Law Enforcement by fleeing after being ordered to stop must be construed to require that a law enforcement officer’s order to stop be based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” the court held.
“Under the facts and circumstances of this case, a reasonable trier of fact could not have found that the officer's order to stop was based on such probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The evidence was thus insufficient to convict the defendant.”
Separately, the court applied its holding in Gaddie Friday in another case as it sought to put to rest conflicts among various Court of Appeals opinions.
Justices affirmed the conviction under the same statute in Donald Murdock v. State of Indiana, 48S02-1406-CR-415. In Murdock, an officer responded to a report of a suspect running away from another officer at nighttime, was “engaged in furtive and evasive activity in a high-crime area, was uncooperative, and matched the description of the suspect,” Dickson wrote.
“The evidence and its reasonable inferences clearly established that the defendant knowingly or intentionally fled from a law enforcement officer’s order to stop that was based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and thus committed the offense of Resisting Law Enforcement,” the court held.