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Being in Unauthorized Jail Area Without Escape Intent Not a Crime in Indiana

The Indiana Court of Appeals held that when prisoners “have no intent or plan to flee from detention in the penal facility in which they are confined, they cannot be guilty of the crime of escape when they merely enter restricted areas of the facility without permission.”

That decision came in an appeal by the State of Indiana, challenging a trial court’s dismissal of escape charges brought against six prisoners at the Greene County Jail.

They were charged after jail officials learned that three female prisoners had removed metal ceiling panels in their cell block and climbed through the ceiling into the men’s cell block, usually after midnight. There they would hang out, play cards and have sex with three male prisoners, who went into the female cell block at least once. This activity occurred over a dozen times from September to October 2008. [See: PLN, July 2009, p.50].

The appellate court said that to prove the prisoners committed the offense of escape, the state had to establish “they intentionally fled detention in a penal facility.” The facts alleged in this case failed to show any such attempt to flee the jail. Instead, at most the facts indicated a violation of jail rules, which was not a crime.

As such, the trial court’s order of dismissal was affirmed. Court of Appeals Judge Ezra H. Friedlander entered a lengthy dissenting opinion. See: State of Indiana v. Moore, 914 N.E.2d 304 (Ind.App. 2009), review denied.

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Related legal case

State of Indiana v. Moore