Felony Enhancement Reversed Because Woman Did Not Directly Cause Officer’s Injury


Jennifer Nelson for www.theindianalawyer.com

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday reached a conclusion opposite from one reached by a previous panel of the court when the judges held a woman who was resisting arrest did not cause the officer’s injuries. The officer hurt his hand when he fell forcing the defendant to the ground.

Antwonna Smith was charged and convicted of Class D felonies theft and resisting law enforcement after she stole some items from a Meijer store. When police officer Rick Jones attempted to arrest Smith, there was a struggle. He pulled her arm and they fell to the ground. The fall scraped one of Jones’ knuckles and fingertip. Based on this injury, the state elevated Smith’s charge from a Class A misdemeanor to the Class D felony.

In 2006, a COA panel decided that a defendant “inflict” as used in the statute means “To cause (something unpleasant) to be endured, and therefore a person resists law enforcement as a Class D felony if, while committing the offense, he “causes someone to experience bodily injury,” Whaley v. State, 843 N.E.2d 1, 10-11 (Ind Ct. App. 2006).

“As we do not believe a person who is thrown to the ground necessarily ‘inflicts’ or ‘causes’ an injury suffered by the person who throws her to the ground, we decline to follow Whaley,” Judge Melissa May wrote in Antwonna Smith v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1312-CR-1015 .

“In the instant case, Officer Jones chose to halt Smith’s resistance by throwing her to the ground, and the officer was injured in doing so. Unlike Whaley, Smith did not create a scenario in which Officer Jones’ only option in handcuffing her was to remove her hands from a location in which he could not reach,” May continued. “As Smith did not inflict or directly cause Officer Jones’ injury, her conviction should not have been enhanced to a felony.”