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Officer’s slip in same mud as fleeing suspect sufficient for felony

February 28, 2018

A man fleeing an arresting officer slipped in mud that also caused the pursuing policeman to slip and injure himself — evidence the Indiana Court of Appeals found sufficient to support the man’s conviction of felony resisting law enforcement.

Joshua Hopson was suspected of trapping a woman in his SUV, and when Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Craig Solomon arrived at the scene, Hopson gave a false name but could not provide a date of birth. Hopson fled as Solomon attempted to place him in handcuffs.

Solomon told Hopson to stop, then gave chase. Hopson slipped on mud at the mouth of an alley but continued to run. Solomon also slipped in the mud, hitting his knee, which made it difficult for him to continue the pursuit. Other responding officers caught and arrested Hopson, who was convicted in a bench trial of Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement by flight causing injury and other charges.

On appeal, Hopson argued that the Level 6 conviction should be reduced to a misdemeanor because he did not cause the injury to Solomon as the felony count requires. “We disagree,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel in affirming Hopson’s conviction.

“For a defendant to be convicted of the causing-injury enhancement, the State must prove that the defendant’s conduct was a proximate cause of the injury, i.e., that the injury was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s conduct,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in Joshua Hopson v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1709-CR-2100.

The panel distinguished the facts of this case from Moore v. State, 49 N.E.3d 1095, 1107-08 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), reh’g denied, trans. denied., in which the same conviction was reversed. In Moore, the court said, it was unclear whether a fleeing suspect was the “actual cause” of a pursuing officer’s shoulder injury.

Here, Vaidik wrote, “It was entirely foreseeable to Hopson that Officer Solomon would slip on a mud patch in the alley Hopson ran through. This is particularly true in light of the fact that Hopson himself had slipped and fallen on the mud patch. When he got up and continued running, he was aware of not only the likelihood that Officer Solomon would continue to chase him but also of the very distinct possibility that Officer Solomon would run through, and fall in, the same spot.” 

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