Lawfulness of Order Irrelevant for Resisting Law Enforcement, IN Appeals Court Holds

Indiana case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Resisting law enforcement, lawfulness of order.

Donald Murdock v. State of Indiana. resisting law enforcement, lawfulness of order

In 2011, Donald Murdock pleaded guilty to burglary and theft in Madison County, Indiana. His sentence included probation. In April, 2013, Indianapolis police officers responding to a call saw Murdock running outside of an apartment building, gave chase, and ordered him to stop. They eventually caught him in a nearby creek, after a scuffle in which one of the officers received an injury to his knee. In May of that year, the State filed a notice of probation violation which alleged that Murdock violated probation by resisting law enforcement. A hearing was held, and the Madison Circuit Court, Judge Dennis D. Carroll, found a violation. The court ordered Murdock to serve three and a half years of the previously suspended sentence.

Dissatisfied with this outcome, Murdock appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals. He admitted that he fled the officer, but argued that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him. The Court of Appeals quickly dismissed this argument. It held that and individual may not flee from a police officer who has ordered the person to stop, regardless of the apparent or ultimate lawfulness of the order. Therefore, even if the officer had no grounds to detain Murdock, fleeing after being ordered to stop was sufficient grounds to revoke probation. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Judge Mathias dissented, and argued that the majority's holding essentially removed all Fourth Amendment protection from the state: "An encounter with the police could never be consensual if all Hoosiers are subject to the command of law enforcement officers who can order us to stop on a whim. Therefore, before a person may be convicted of resisting a law enforcement officer by fleeing an officer after having been ordered to halt, the officer must have, at the very least, a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity beyond the act of fleeing upon which to base his order to halt."

The issue in this case is likely to be decided soon by the Indiana Supreme Court. In Gaddie v. State, 991 NE 2d 137 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), a different panel of the Court of Appeals reversed a conviction for resisting law enforcement, since the defendant in that case "had no duty to stop when law enforcement ordered him to do so." The Indiana Supreme Court has accepted transfer of the Gaddie case, Supreme Court case number 49 S 02 - 1312 - CR - 00789. Oral argument in Gaddie has been set for April 3, 2014.

Murdock was represented in the appeal by Anderson, IN, attorney Anthony C. Lawrence.

No. No. 48A02-1306-CR-565 (Ind. Ct. App. Mar. 18, 2014).

Update: This decision was affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court. For details, click here.

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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