Appeals panel overturns man’s trespass conviction

August 22, 2016

An Indianapolis man who had lived with his father with the consent of the senior apartment complex where he resided should not have been convicted of trespass after he was ordered to leave, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in overturning a bench trial verdict.

Douglas M. Curtis lived at the Nora Commons complex and in 2010 had signed a “live-in attendant” agreement to help his father live independently. However, the agreement had not been annually renewed as management policy stipulated, and managers gave Curtis 48 hours to vacate the complex after learning he had resold books taken from the Nora Commons library, according to the record.

Before that time was up, though, police were called after several residents said it appeared Curtis was removing electronics from a common area. He claimed he was taking a PA system he had lent to the complex, and Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the COA that Curtis wasn’t charged with theft or attempted theft in the matter.

“We conclude that a person in Curtis’s position, being told he or she had forty-eight hours to somehow remove his personal property from the premises, would reasonably believe he or she had permission to remain on or re-enter the premises at any time during the next forty-eight hours,” Barnes wrote. “Indeed, Curtis testified that when police arrived, he was in the process of loading his car with his personal property; there is no evidence to contradict this testimony."

Even if Curtis had been attempting to steal property after being given a no-trespass notice, this by itself cannot form the basis of a trespass charge, Barnes noted. He wrote Curtis should have been charged with theft or attempted theft, but the state made no effort to prove either.

There also is no evidence Curtis was refusing to leave. "In sum, there is insufficient evidence Curtis had the necessary mens rea to have committed criminal trespass," the court concluded in Douglas M. Curtis v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1512-CR-2293.


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