Dec 30 2011, 9:10 am
of the supreme court,
court of appeals and
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT:
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
SUZY ST. JOHN
Marion County Public Defender
GREGORY F. ZOELLER
Attorney General of Indiana
RICHARD C. WEBSTER
Deputy Attorney General
COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA
STATE OF INDIANA,
APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Barbara A. Collins, Judge
The Honorable John J. Boyce, Commissioner
Cause No. 49F08-1101-CM-888
December 30, 2011
OPINION - FOR PUBLICATION
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers were dispatched to Marvelean Williams’s
home to investigate a disturbance. Williams interfered with the investigation by yelling and
ignoring orders to remain seated. Although Williams was not suspected of being involved in
the initial disturbance, after her husband was arrested, the officers became concerned when
she attempted to go into the kitchen that she might retrieve a weapon, and they decided to
place her in handcuffs while they continued their investigation. When Williams resisted their
efforts to handcuff her, she was arrested for resisting law enforcement. After a bench trial,
Williams was convicted. On appeal, Williams argues that there is insufficient evidence that
the police were lawfully engaged in their duties when they handcuffed her. Because the sole
case that she relies on is distinguishable, we conclude that Williams has not shown that her
conviction must be overturned. Therefore, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
On January 4, 2011, Officers Dennis Lowe and Francisco Olmos were dispatched to
Williams’s home due to a reported “disturbance” or “assault” involving two men and a
woman. Tr. at 7, 16. When the officers arrived six people were in the home. Two additional
officers remained outside the residence to provide backup. Officers Lowe and Olmos asked
everyone to sit down and started taking statements. Williams was “screaming, yelling,
flailing her arms, [and] making the scene more chaotic.” Id. at 17. Both officers felt that she
was impeding their investigation because they “had to pay more attention to her rather than
getting information.” Id. at 10. At some point, the officers decided to arrest Williams’s
husband for battery, and Williams became even more belligerent. She got up several times
despite the officers’ orders to remain seated. She tried to go to the kitchen, and the officers
were concerned that she might get a knife or some other object that could be used as a
The officers decided to place Williams in handcuffs for their safety. She resisted their
efforts to handcuff her by “flipping her arms around” and pulling away. Id. at 10. She
continued yelling, cursing, and threatening to sue the officers. Once the officers succeeded
in handcuffing her, they decided to move her to the porch. Williams “planted her feet and
refused to comply.” Id.
Williams was arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement as a class A
misdemeanor. The case was tried to the bench on April 18, 2011. The officers testified to
the foregoing facts. Williams presented the testimony of her husband and her husband’s
uncle, who both denied that Williams disrupted or resisted the officers. The trial court found
her guilty as charged. Williams now appeals.
Discussion and Decision
Williams argues that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction. Pursuant
to Indiana Code Section 35-44-3-3(a)(1), a person commits resisting law enforcement if the
person “forcibly resists, obstructs, or interferes with a law enforcement officer or a person
assisting the officer while the officer is lawfully engaged in the execution of the officer’s
duties.” When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we do not reweigh the evidence or
evaluate the credibility of witnesses. Stewart v. State, 945 N.E.2d 1277, 1291 (Ind. Ct. App.
2011), trans. denied.
We look only to the evidence supporting the judgment and the
reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. Id. We will affirm if there is substantial
evidence of probative value supporting each element of the offense. Wright v. State, 828
N.E.2d 904, 906 (Ind. 2005).
Williams argues that there is insufficient evidence that the officers were lawfully
engaged in the execution of their duties. She relies solely on Briggs v. State, 873 N.E.2d 129
(Ind. Ct. App. 2007), trans. denied. Eric Briggs had allowed Gary Lanville to live in his
apartment for several weeks and then asked him to leave. Lanville contacted the police and
requested “stand-by assistance” while retrieving his personal belongings from Briggs’s
apartment. Id. at 131. Two officers accompanied Lanville to the apartment to help “keep the
peace.” Id. Although Briggs was very angry, when the officers informed him of the purpose
of their visit, he said, “Okay,” and walked away, leaving the door ajar. Id. Briggs started
walking toward his bedroom. Concerned that Briggs could be retrieving a weapon, the
officers entered his residence and ordered him to stop, but Briggs ignored them. The officers
tried to grab him, but he pulled away. Eventually, they forcibly placed him in handcuffs.
Briggs was charged with and convicted of resisting law enforcement.
On appeal, we concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the officers were
lawfully engaged in the execution of their duties when they ordered him to stop and grabbed
his arms. Id. at 134. Because the encounter was consensual, we held that he was free to
disregard the officers or even order them to leave his home. Id. at 133. A mere hunch that
Briggs could have a weapon in his bedroom was not a sufficient basis for detaining him. Id.
Therefore, we reversed his conviction of resisting law enforcement.
Williams does not claim that the police were unlawfully present in her home. Cf. id.
at 132 & n.4 (assuming without deciding that police had obtained Briggs’s consent to enter
his apartment). Nor does she dispute that the officers were investigating a report of a
disturbance, and not merely providing stand-by assistance. See id. at 133 n.7 (noting that
outcome could have been different if police had been responding to a report of domestic
violence). Briggs does not discuss the extent of an officer’s power to control the scene while
conducting a criminal investigation. The situation here also presented a greater safety risk to
the police than that in Briggs, where we found that danger was only speculative and no arrest
had yet been made. In this case, the police were dispatched to a scene where they were
outnumbered and violence had already erupted once. Williams did not merely walk away
from the police, as Briggs did, but was actively interfering with the officers’ investigation.
Williams has not cited any authority to convince us that the officers acted unlawfully when
they handcuffed her for safety reasons while they conducted their investigation, and we are
not aware of any such authority. Police have a legal right to take reasonable steps to stabilize
a situation such as this during the course of their investigation. This is so for both the safety
of the officers as well as the citizens present. Therefore, we affirm her conviction.
MAY, J., and BROWN, J., concur.