Resisting Law Enforcement, Lawfulness of Order

Indiana case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Resisting Law Enforcement.

Indiana Resisting Law Enforcement: Two Cases

On June 27, 2014, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down two decisions regarding the consequences of failure to abide by a law enforcement officer's order to stop. I previously reported on one of those cases. The first case was State v. Gaddie, 10 N.E.3d 1249 (Ind. 2014).

In 2012, and Indianapolis police officer responded to a disturbance involving about eight people standing on a porch screaming and yelling. Several other people were walking away, and the officer told them to return to the front yard so that he could sort it out when backup officers arrived. Everyone in the group complied, except for one, who kept walking away. The officer told him to stop, and even repeated the order "screaming extremely loud." Even though the defendant looked back, he simply kept walking. About 45 seconds later, the defendant was intercepted by another officer at the next street over.

Presumably, no evidence of other criminal activity was found, so the defendant was charged with the misdemeanor of resisting law enforcement, in violation of Indiana Code 35-44.1-3-1(a)(3). That section criminalizes fleeing from a law enforcement officer after the officer "ordered the person to stop."

In this case, there had been an order to stop, but the defendant argued that under the Fourth Amendment, he had no obligation to stop. The case eventually found its way to the Indiana high court, which agreed with the defendant that there had been no offense in this case. Even though the statute does not require the order to be lawful, it must be construed in a manner consistent with the Constitution. The court quoted a Supreme Court precedent stating that in the absence of justification, a person "may not be detained even momentarily without reasonable, objective grounds for doing so...." Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491 (1983). The Indiana court noted that allowing prosecution would undermine long standing precedent that "an individual has a right to ignore police and go about his business."

The court went on to conclude that there was no reasonable suspicion in this case. Accordingly, it agreed with the Court of Appeals that the conviction must be reversed.

Donald Murdock didn't fare quite as well in the Supreme Court. In his case, Murdock v. State, 10 N.E.3d 1265 (Ind. 2014), the conviction was upheld. Murdock was on probation when ordered to stop by police. While the probation aspect was mentioned, the court focused on the circumstances of the arrest. Unlike Gaddie, who walked away from police, Murdock ran and "engaged in furtive and evasive activity in a high-crime area," and "matched the description of the suspect." Interestingly, though, he was apparently a suspect only of running away from another officer.

The difference between Murdock and Gaddie seems to be that Gaddie merely refused to cooperate, whereas Murdock engaged in "furtive and evasive activity."

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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