New Encroachment Law in Indiana
In April 2023, Indiana Governor, Eric Holcomb, signed HB 1186 into law, making it illegal for individuals to encroach on a police investigation. This new encroachment law in Indiana, which has already been challenged by the ACLU, went into effect on July 1, 2023, and prohibits individuals from knowingly and/or intentionally approaching within 25 feet of a law enforcement officer once the officer has ordered the person to stop.
If you have any questions or concerns about this new law, or have been charged with unlawful encroachment in Indiana, the criminal defense lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are here to help you. Our team, led by two former deputy prosecutors, understands Indiana criminal law inside and out, and can ably assist you in navigating the criminal justice process. To speak with an attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Unlawful Encroachment on an Investigation in Indiana
The new encroachment law in Indiana, authored by State Representative Wendy McNamara, can be found in Indiana Code 35-44.1-2-14, which states that “a person who knowingly or intentionally approaches within twenty-five (25) feet of a law enforcement officer lawfully engaged in the execution of the law enforcement officer’s duties after the law enforcement officer has ordered the person to stop approaching commits unlawful encroachment on an investigation, a Class C misdemeanor.” Per the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines, the penalties associated with a conviction of this level include up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
This new law is aimed at providing police officers a “lifesaving space.” As McNamara told WFYI in March of 2023, “this bill will give that person the opportunity to get back, give the officer the opportunity to say, ‘Go stand by that post,’ and de-escalate the situation.” Given this, it should be no surprise that the new law was met with immense support by various police organizations, including the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police and the Indiana Sheriff’s association.
The law does, however, have some detractors, many of whom are concerned with the narrow language of law and the lack of exceptions, especially for journalists and citizen activists. For example, as stated by the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, “it does not matter if the officer’s order to stop approaching is “objectively unreasonable. Nor does it matter if complying would make observing law enforcement activity impossible, because it would obstruct the view of onlookers. (In fact, the state legislature rejected an amendment that would have carved out an exception for such a circumstance.) Finally, it does not matter if the person being told to stop approaching is a journalist.”
In addition, critics have pointed out that the new encroachment law in Indiana may pose a threat to the constitutional rights of Hoosiers. Generally, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, protects the filming and recording of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place. For instance, individuals may record a police officer during a protest or traffic stop, provided that the person is not interfering with the officer’s ability to perform their duties. This right to record has been explicitly recognized by six federal appellate courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Although this new law does not explicitly address the topic of recording, it may still allow police to arrest a person quietly and peacefully recording them, regardless of whether they were actually interfering with the officer’s official police duties.
In fact, the ACLU of Indiana has already filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law, arguing that the law hinders one’s ability to engage in their first amendment right to observe and record the police without interfering with their activities, and therefore is unconstitutional. The lawsuit stems from an incident that took place in South Bend Indiana on July 23, 2023, where the plaintiff, a citizen journalist, approached a crime scene, reportedly at a distance greater than 25 feet, and began livestreaming the event on YouTube. Approximately 9 minutes into the stream, a police officer approached the plaintiff and others who had gathered, “stepped off” what he indicated was 25 feet and ordered the group to move further away from the crime scene. The group obliged and moved further away. Then, another officer approached the group and ordered them to move back another 25 feet from the location they were ordered by the previous officer. The second officer threatened the group with jail time, referencing the new encroachment law in Indiana and “interpreting it to mean that police could repeated push persons back 25 feet at a time based solely on a police officer ordering this.”
Charged with a Criminal Offense under this New Law?
While the new encroachment law in Indiana is currently subject to legal challenge, it is still an active and enforceable law. Therefore, if you’ve been charged with unlawful encroachment on an investigation, you’ll certainly want to hire an experienced Indiana defense lawyer who understands this new law and is invested in securing the best possible outcome in the case against you.
The criminal defense team at Keffer Hirschauer LLP is led by two former deputy prosecutors who understand the Indiana criminal justice system inside and out and can provide sound legal counsel when it comes to charges of unlawful encroachment. To speak with an attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.