When you’re a criminal defense attorney, every NOT GUILTY verdict is a reason to celebrate! At trial, nothing is guaranteed. Even if you’ve memorized the rules and procedural formalities, a criminal trial is a live high-wire act—you’re never sure how it’s going to go, regardless of how much time you’ve spent preparing. In my experience, the uncertainty of it all makes every victory that much sweeter.
In a convoluted case that should never have been filed, an Indianapolis man was recently charged with two felony counts of criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon. The weapon in question had been a BB gun, and the only reason the defendant had brought it with him onto his front porch was because he’d observed a stranger reaching onto his property and laying hands on his dog. The defendant eventually learned that a utility company employee had come to shut the defendant’s water off and had been frightened by his dog. The skittish utility company worker had then called animal control, and it had been an animal control employee who’d been trying to restrain the defendant’s dog. Neither the utility worker nor the animal control employee had announced their presence or intentions.
Once everyone’s respective identities and motivations were straightened out, the defendant realized his error and offered apologies, but this wasn’t enough for the Lawrence Police Department. The defendant was arrested and jailed for seven days. Even though the State adopted an aggressively confrontational posture, the defendant was cooperative, providing police with footage of the incident from his home security cameras. Despite his initial misunderstanding and subsequent cooperation, the State decided to come after the defendant with felony charges.
Following a day-long jury trial, justice was served, and the defendant—whose great crime had been rushing to protect his dog—was found NOT GUILTY on all counts. That’s not to say the State is okay with its citizens pointing weapons at each other, but Indiana does recognize a person’s right to defend themselves, their dwelling, and their property. Even where a mistake is involved, you can still claim self-defense as long as you reasonably believed it to be necessary.
In closing, I’d like to remind everyone that Indiana law allows—some might even say encourages—self defense. When you think about it, there are probably few times when it’s more important to try and defend yourself than when you’re facing the prospect of being railroaded by the State. The police aren’t always right, and criminal charges don’t always mean you’re guilty. Whether you’re facing an immediate, physical threat or a process-based assault on your liberty, there’s nothing more important than being willing to stand up for yourself.