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Batchelor v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 28, 2018

Christapher Batchelor, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Clay Circuit Court The Honorable Joseph Trout, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 11C01-1512-F6-890

          Attorney for Appellant Stacy R. Uliana Bargersville, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Larry D. Allen Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Barnes, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Christapher Batchelor appeals his convictions for Level 5 felony battery on a law enforcement officer, Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement, and Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

         Issue

         [¶2] The sole issue is whether the trial court committed fundamental error by giving the jury an instruction regarding the definition of "flee" for purposes of resisting law enforcement.

         Facts

         [¶3] At about 8:30 p.m. on December 14, 2015, Clay County Deputy Sheriff James Switzer was driving his marked cruiser and saw that Batchelor was driving his truck without wearing a seatbelt. As Deputy Switzer pulled behind Batchelor at a four-way stop in Brazil, he saw Batchelor reach over and put on his seat belt, then signal and turn left. Deputy Switzer activated his lights to initiate a traffic stop, but Batchelor continued driving for one minute and thirty-eight seconds; Deputy Switzer did not immediately activate his siren but did so later at some point.[1] There was a well-lighted gas station at the intersection where Deputy Switzer first activated his lights. Deputy Switzer then followed Batchelor through residential areas, passing a number of street lights and side streets. Batchelor encountered two stop signs while being followed by Deputy Switzer, at which he made complete stops. Batchelor was traveling approximately thirty-five miles per hour in a twenty-five miles per hour zone; Deputy Switzer described Batchelor's speed as not excessive and "more or less appropriate . . . ." Tr. Vol. III p. 7. Finally, after Deputy Switzer had activated his LED spotlight and shined it on Batchelor's mirrors, Batchelor pulled over into a gravel parking area on the side of the road.

         [¶4] Batchelor started to get out of his truck as Deputy Switzer got out of his cruiser. Deputy Switzer ordered Batchelor to get on the ground and he complied. Deputy Switzer intended to arrest Batchelor for resisting law enforcement. However, Batchelor resisted Deputy Switzer's attempt to handcuff him. Two other officers then arrived on the scene as backup. Batchelor continued struggling with Deputy Switzer and the other two officers. During the struggle, Batchelor kicked Deputy Switzer in the chest, throwing him into Batchelor's truck. Batchelor could not be subdued and arrested until two more backup officers arrived on the scene. Because of this altercation, Deputy Switzer injured his ankle and had to miss three months of work recovering. One of the back-up officers jammed his finger during the altercation, and another sustained a black eye.

         [¶5] The State charged Batchelor with Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement for fleeing from Deputy Switzer, one count of Level 6 felony battery on a police officer for kicking and injuring Deputy Switzer, and two counts of Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement with respect to Batchelor's resisting arrest by two of the back-up officers. The State later combined the two Class A misdemeanor charges into one charge. Batchelor did not testify or present evidence during his jury trial. During closing statements, Batchelor's attorney argued that he did not flee Deputy Switzer in light of there not being a highspeed chase, the fact that it was nighttime and raining, and that the gravel parking area where he stopped was "a good and safe place to pull over . . . ." Id. at 109.[2]

         [¶6] The State requested and the trial court gave the following instruction:

A person who fails to stop his vehicle promptly "flees" law enforcement when the person attempts to escape from law enforcement or attempts to unnecessarily prolong the time before the person must stop. It is an issue in this case whether the Defendant attempted to escape or unnecessarily prolonged the time before ...

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