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Man’s misdemeanor resisting conviction overturned under continuous crime doctrine

November 14, 2018

The Indiana Court of Appeals has partially reversed a man’s two convictions for resisting law enforcement after finding both of the convictions cannot stand under the continuous crime doctrine.

In February 2017, a Beech Grove police officer attempted to initiate a traffic stop when he witnessed a vehicle driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. But when signaled to pull over, the vehicle accelerated and a pursuit ensued, resulting in the vehicle crashing into a tree.

The driver, Michael Norris, stumbled out of the van, tossed a handgun from his waistband near a tree line and proceeded to run towards a nearby ravine, where he jumped and rolled down it. Norris was soon apprehended by the officer and was eventually convicted of Level 4 felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement and Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement.

On appeal, Norris argued, among other things, that his two convictions for resisting law enforcement violated the continuous crime doctrine, that the Marion Superior Court improperly sentenced him and that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument.

The appellate court agreed with Norris, pointing to caselaw holding that defendants cannot be convicted of both misdemeanor and felony resisting law enforcement when he or she flees in a vehicle, gets out and immediately flees on foot. Citing Lewis v. State, 43 N.E.3d 689, 691 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015) and Nevel v. State, 818 N.E.2d 1, 5 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), the court further stated that the circumstances in  Michael Norris v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-86 were no different.

“Norris’ actions of fleeing by vehicle and then on foot constitute one continuous act of resisting law enforcement, and we hold that convictions on both counts cannot stand,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote for the panel. “…We hereby remand this case to the trial court with instructions to vacate Norris’ conviction for Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and to amend the abstract of judgment, chronological case summary, and any other relevant court documents to reflect the vacated Class A misdemeanor conviction.”

Additionally, the appellate court found no prosecutorial misconduct in statements made during closing argument, and determined that the trial court did not improperly sentence Norris to maximum and advisory sentences for his remaining felony convictions.

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