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By Jeff Terrill
Fort Wayne Reader
Mike loves everything about college. He is studying finance and journalism. Mike writes for the campus newspaper. He is fascinated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decisions involving free speech and prior restraint. Mike’s favorite class so far in college is called Journalism and the Constitution – taught by Mike’s favorite professor.
On his way home one night, Mike spots several squad cars parked near a house on his block. Mike hears screaming. It sounds like someone is really hurt. As Mike gets closer to the commotion, he sees that the screams are coming from a guy he recognizes from one of his classes. The man is face-first on the ground pleading with the police officers to get off of him. He’s yelling that his arm is broken. Mike asks one of the officers what the guy did. The officer informs Mike that the guy is drunk and tried to run from a police officer.
Mike watches as a campus police officer places his foot on the man’s injured arm. The man screams and begs for an ambulance to be called. Mike starts recording the action on his phone. An officer tells Mike to put away the phone. Mike ignores the officer and keeps recording. The officer repeats his commands to Mike. Mike starts to record the officer who is demanding that he turn off his phone.
Mike moves even closer to where the police have the man down on the ground. Mike is still recording. Some other students are gathered around the scene and some are screaming at the police officers to get off of the man.
Mike knows that there is a story here. He believes the police are acting too aggressively toward the man on the ground. Mike doesn’t fully understand what the man did, but he recognizes that the man is no longer posing any type of threat.
Suddenly, an officer grabs Mike, takes his phone and handcuffs him. The officer informs Mike that he’s under arrest for refusing to leave an emergency area.
In Indiana, a non-exempted person who knowingly refuses to leave such a location can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable up to one year in jail. An “emergency incident area” is defined in part as the “area surrounding a structure, vehicle, property or area identified with flags, barricades, barrier tape or other markers; or 150 feet in all directions from the perimeter of the emergency incident.”
Mike believes that the police arrested him because he was recording the incident on his phone. Mike recognizes that he would not have been able to record the incident accurately from 150 feet or more away from the incident.
The next day, Mike stops in to see his favorite professor. Mike is interested to learn if his professor thinks that law is constitutional.
Mike also hopes his professor might have some suggestions for how to get back his phone.
Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you