Protecting Your Rights In Indiana Since 1915

What is “unlawful encroachment on an investigation” in Indiana?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Nearly everyone carries a cellphone with them at all times. That means they have the ability to take photos and videos of anything they come across. This has made a big difference in holding those law enforcement officers who breach their duty accountable for their actions – although even a video may not portray a police encounter with complete accuracy.

There can be a fine line between recording a police encounter and interfering with officers’ work. Here in Indiana, a law enacted last year drew that line.

The specifics of the law

It’s a Class C misdemeanor to “knowingly or intentionally [approach] within twenty-five (25) feet of a law enforcement officer lawfully engaged in the execution of [their] duties after the law enforcement officer has ordered the person to stop.” A conviction for “unlawful encroachment on an investigation” can result in a $500 fine and a 60-day jail sentence.

The importance of keeping that distance even when it may appear that the police encounter is over was highlighted by the arrest last fall of a woman in Lawrence. Although she reportedly kept the required distance as she recorded an arrest, she found herself in handcuffs after she approached the ambulance into which the suspect was being loaded.

A public safety tool or a violation of constitutional rights? 

A local police official said that while it’s “within a citizen’s rights to record those events, it’s just a matter of…creating the environment where a secondary issue could occur because somebody is so close….” One of the state legislators behind the law says it’s intended to “give officers another tool to help control a scene to maintain their safety and the public’s safety.”

Not everyone is pleased with the law. There have been lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others contending that it violates the First Amendment and “gives police officers unbridled discretion.”

Regardless of how you feel about the law, it’s important to understand it – and the potential consequences for being accused of violating it. Interfering with police activity, even if you think it’s for the greater good, is only going to create a situation where you could endanger yourself or others. You could also find yourself charged with more serious offenses in addition to this one. If you’re facing charges after attempting to record police activity, getting legal guidance as soon as possible can help you protect your rights.