Judges reverse teen’s adjudication for resisting law enforcement

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Citing lack of evidence, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed an Indianapolis teen’s adjudication as a juvenile delinquent for committing what would be Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement if committed by an adult. None of his actions suggested any criminal activity was afoot.

The police were dispatched to an apartment complex to investigate the report of a suspicious young, black male wearing a white T-shirt who was seen “around” a white SUV. The officers found nothing when they arrived; but 30 minutes after they arrived, they saw M.J., a young black male wearing a maroon T-shirt, approaching them in the distance. When he saw the officers, he abruptly turned and began walking in a different direction. The officers ordered him to stop, but he took off running.

M.J. claimed he lived nearby the complex and he had overslept that morning. He was running to catch the bus to the Boys and Girls Club. His father testified that he overslept and was not able to take M.J. to the club.

The juvenile court found M.J. committed Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement if committed by an adult, and placed him on probation with a suspended commitment to the Indiana Department of Correction. The juvenile court also modified orders in three previous cases – two theft cases and an auto theft case – to include the same suspended commitment to the DOC.

Citing Griffin v. State, 997 N.E.2d 375, 379 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), and Gaddie v. State, 10 N.E.3d 1249, 1254, 55 (Ind. 2014), the Court of Appeals reversed.

“Although the resisting law enforcement statute, on its face, does not expressly require the order to stop to be lawful, in order to interpret the statute as constitutional, the Indiana Supreme Court has explained that such an order to stop must be understood to require probable cause or reasonable suspicion,” Senior Judge Carr Darden wrote in M.J. v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1403-JV-121.

Because there’s no evidence M.J. was involved in any criminal activity, his adjudication must be reversed, the COA held. The judges also vacated the modification of the three previous orders.

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