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Evidence of Spice, Ecstasy Possession Suppressed: Court Upholds “Right to Walk Away”

In a recent Marion County case, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that Hoosiers can lawfully walk away from police when officers lack probable cause or reasonable suspicion for criminal activity. The Court determined that police illegally arrested a woman for resisting law enforcement when she lawfully exercised her right to walk away. As a result, evidence gathered during the course of her arrest was ordered suppressed, including alleged spice and Ecstasy found during a pat down.
“Hey, I Need to Talk to You”
Two Indianapolis police officers received a report that a woman was causing a disturbance at a local convenience store. Upon arrival, officers saw the defendant walking across the street away from the store. An employee came outside and pointed at her. The woman was approaching the door of an apartment by the time officers drove up. One officer exited the vehicle and said, “Hey, I need to talk to you.” The woman turned, looked at the officer, ignored him, and walked into the apartment.
The woman came outside 10 – 15 minutes later. The officer asked why she did not stop to speak with them. She replied, “I didn’t know what you wanted to talk to me about.” Immediately, the woman was placed under arrest for resisting law enforcement. While patting the woman down, police also found alleged spice and Ecstasy. Afterward, police also spoke with the convenience store clerk, who said that the woman became upset and damaged the electronic card reader.
Ultimately, police charged the woman with possession of a controlled substance, criminal mischief, possession of a synthetic drug, and resisting law enforcement. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence found during the pat down, arguing that the spice and Ecstasy were the products of an illegal search. The Marion County trial court denied the defendant’s motion.
The Right to Walk Away
The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress based on the belief that the defendant had met the 3 parts of the crime of resisting law enforcement:
1)    That the defendant knowingly fled
2)    From a law enforcement officer who had identified himself or herself
3)    After that officer ordered the person to stop
The State and the defendant disagreed over whether the statement, “Hey I need to talk to you,” established an order to stop. However, the Court of Appeals determined this point was moot, stating, “even if [the defendant] had disobeyed a direct and unambiguous order from the officer to stop, she could not be subjected to an arrest or a search based solely on her failure to obey the order.”
In other words, when the officer told the woman he needed to talk to her, police did not have the authority to stop her, much less arrest her. In 2014, the Indiana Supreme Court determined that “a report of a disturbance, without more, is not a sufficient basis upon which to conduct an investigatory stop.” Since her actions at the convenience store had not merited an arrest up unto that point, it was not illegal for her to ignore the officers and exercise her right to walk away.
As a result, the alleged spice and Ecstasy found during the course of the defendant’s arrest was ordered suppressed.
Criminal Attorneys Defend Marijuana, Ecstasy, and Controlled Substances Charges in Indianapolis
Police can only order citizens to stop under certain circumstances. If you were arrested after an unlawful stop, you may have a defense to any and possibly all subsequent charges that resulted from that stop. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Gibson Law Office can help. Call 855-9-Gibson for a free initial consultation for your case in the Indianapolis, Franklin, or Shelbyville area.