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Friday, February 22, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

And it is Justice Rush's first opinion as a Supreme Court justice.

In KW v. State, a 5-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rush writes:

A school liaison officer intervened in a hallway scuffle between K.W. and another student. K.W. turned away from the officer’s effort to handcuff him, and was adjudicated delinquent for resisting law enforcement. We granted transfer, and now reverse because there is insufficient evi-dence that K.W. acted “forcibly,” as the offense of resisting law enforcement requires.

We also invite the Legislature to consider whether to bring school-resource officers — police officers privately employed by schools for school security and disciplinary purposes — within the ambit of the resisting-law-enforcement statute. The current statute applies to law-enforcement officers only when they are engaged in law-enforcement duties, which does not always apply to the different, though important, duties of a school officer. A common-law resolution of that question would risk unintended consequences, but a narrower legislative approach may be appropriate. * * *

We recognize it is somewhat anomalous that two uniformed law-enforcement officers responding to the same school incident could be treated differently for purposes of resisting law enforcement, if one was purely an “outside” officer while the other was a school-resource officer. School-resource officers serve a vitally important role in maintaining school safety and order against a growing range of discipline problems and threats, and we in no way diminish the value of their work. Yet we are also reluctant to risk blurring the already-fine Fourth Amendment line between school-discipline and law-enforcement duties by allowing the same officer to invisibly “switch hats” — taking a disciplinary role to conduct a warrantless search in one moment, then in the next taking a law-enforcement role to make an arrest based on the fruits of that search. * * *

Because there is insufficient evidence that K.W. forcibly resisted Sergeant Smith, we reverse the trial court and vacate K.W.’s delinquency adjudication.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 22, 2013 10:10 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions