Sunday, January 23, 2011

Land of the Free, Part I

You may not be aware that I did some jail time in Greencastle, Indiana last summer, a little more than five months (and 2,600 miles) into my walk across the United States. Yes, I spent three nights in jail last July (2010), and subsequently I had to go back to Indiana for court on Friday January 21, 2011, to defend myself against the charges that landed me in jail.

The remainder of this post (between the horizontal lines) is a word-for-word transcription of the arrest report from that incident (excluding my birth date). As you read this report (which is the deputy's account of the incident, not necessarily the truth), try to figure out exactly at what point I broke a law.

CASE # 10074110 (7-24-2010)

On 7-24-2010 at approximately 7:37 p.m. I was dispatched to a suspicious person complaint on US-40 near the Putnamville Correctional Facility. I was advised by dispatch that the subject was walking eastbound near the prison and that DOC employees had attempted to make contact with the subject and he became belligerent and continued walking east. When I arrived in the area, I observed a male subject sitting in the grass on the north side of US 40, just east of the Lincoln Park Speedway entrance.

At this time I exited my commission to make contact with the subject. Upon approaching the subject I asked if he was alright, to which he responded that he was. At this time I asked the subject if he had recently had contact with employees of the DOC to which he stated that he had. At this time I asked the subject for identification to which he responded he was a US citizen and that he did not have to tell me anything. I again asked the subject for identification to which he again stated he was not going to comply with my request and that I should leave him alone.

At this time Sheriff Steve Fenwick arrived at my location at which time I again asked the subject for identification to which he again refused to provide. At this time Sheriff Fenwick asked the subject to provide identification to which he again refused.

At this time I attempted to reason with the subject and asked for his name and birth date to which he again stated he did not have to provide.

While speaking with the subject he continued to yell and tell us that he was a US citizen and did not have to provide us with any information and that he was aware of the Constitution. After numerous attempts to reason with the subject and asking him to quiet down and cooperate, he stated that he would not provide us with any information.

At this time I told the subject to turn around and place his hands behind his back to which he stated that I better not touch him and that he was not going to comply. At this time I again asked the subject to place his hands behind his back to which he again stated he would not.

At this time I attempted to gain control of the subjects arm to which he jerked away and took a few steps and again told me not to touch him. At this time I assisted the subject to the ground and placed him into handcuffs and advised him to stop resisting, to which he then complied. At this time I patted the subject down and located a wallet in his front pocket that contained an Ohio drivers license identifying the subject as Ryan Michael Powell.

At this time I advised Mr. Powell of his Miranda Rights to which he stated he understood. At this time I contacted dispatch to have the jail van enroute to transport Mr. Powell to the Putnam County Jail. Upon arrival of the jail van Mr. Powell and his belongings were loaded and he was transported to the Putnam County Jail. After arriving at the jail and during the process of placing Mr. Powell's belongings into the property room, a glass smoking device was located in Mr. Powell's bag commonly used to smoke marijuana. At this time Mr. Powell was remanded to the jail staff on the above stated charges.

Cpl. Jonathan D. Chadd
[Jonathan D. Chadd's signature]

So what do you think? By reading this arrest report, can you figure out exactly how I broke a law? Since I don't want to taint your perception of what may or may not have happened during my encounter with the public servants of Putnam County, Indiana, I'll refrain from adding any commentary for a few days.

(Continued in Land of the Free, Part II)

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ER said...

Ryan, you broke the law by refusing to show your identification to the officer. I'm not saying I agree with the law here, but if a law enforcement officer has suspicion that a crime may have been committed, and he asks you to identify yourself, then you must identify yourself. A sure way to know whether or not a cop is suspicious of whether or not you've committed a crime, is to ask if you're free to go. If says you're not, then he suspects you of committing a crime, and you must show your identification if he asks for it. On top of that, once you DID refuse to identify yourself once, the officer was certain you had warrants, so that increased his suspicion. It's kind of a catch-22. When he checked your ID with the NCIC database and found you had no warrants, he was probably shocked. I've watched enough episodes of Cops to know that 99% of the time, when someone refuses to identify themselves, they have warrants.

Also, when cops are investigating a potential crime, they are legally permitted to detain you as well, and if you refuse to be detained (handcuffed), you are again breaking the law. They can do this without reading you your rights, or anything.

I know your argument is going to be that the cop had no reason to suspect you of committing a crime, but the fact that someone called the police and he was dispatched to you is more than enough to make his argument of suspicion legal.

What it comes down to is that, as much as it sucks, you pretty much have to do what an officer asks of you (within reason), or he's going to find a way to take you to jail and make it stick legally.

Then there's the issue of the pipe. That completely shoots down your argument that he had no reason to suspect you of committing a crime, because you were in fact breaking the law. As dumb as it is, possessing drug paraphernalia is illegal, and that includes a small glass pot pipe.

So, what happened when you went to court?

Ryan M. Powell said...

Man, I really want to counter that right now, but I'm gonna wait, in case anyone else decides to chime in. I've already drafted a bunch paragraphs of what will become the next post, and these issues will be well covered.

Jeff said...


You apparently don't know the law. Ryan didn't break any laws and doesn't have to answer any questions unless he has been suspected of a crime. He was not suspected. His 4th Amendment rights were violated. Some may say he was being a dick. Well maybe... But if you had been stopped, over the course of ~3,000 miles and harassed, you may be tired of the same old run around. ER, it's really funny that you just assumed that Ryan broke the law because a law enforcement officer asked him for his ID. That's really not how it works. That's why we have the 4th amendment of the constitution.

RobW said...

It's been about 10 years since the last Supreme Court challenge to a state's "Stop and Identify" law, but in Hiibel v. Nevada, the Court upheld it, overturning prior precedent- "stare decisis" my ass.

This was, I believe, the last nail in the Fourth Amendment's coffin.

Your mistake? Buying the hype that you have the right to be let alone. Thanks, conservatives!

Had the police NOT had the right to demand ID then when you refused, he'd have had no right to search you or else the paraphernalia charge would have been dropped as the result of an improper search. BUT as it is, they do have that right and your refusal gave them the right to arrest you on the spot. Once arrested, anything they find on you is fair game.

Lesson learned: just show them your damned ID. Yes, it sucks; we have become a country in which police feel little or no restraint on their behavior. You're lucky he didn't just taze you for being disobedient to his command. The only thing Americans are permitted to do in the presence of a police officer is obey immediately. And remember to say "sir." And there's not a damned thing you can do about it, so my advice is to let it go- not just to stay out of jail, but for peace of mind. Or consider Canadian citizenship or, I dunno, New Zealand maybe? There has to be a free country somewhere.

RobW said...

Jeff, you're wrong. Read the wikipedia link I posted. It's what I thought too until the Hiibel case, which I followed from Las Vegas at the time. It was a shocking decision, frankly. It came from a conservative majority on the court who overturned prior liberal courts' decisions going back to '73. This court has absolutely no interest in protecting rights if it means restraining police power. Zero.

Jeff said...


Have any attorneys posted here yet?

Jeff said...


Wikipedia isn't exactly an authoritative source, but I guess we'll find out what happened to Ryan in a couple of days.

Besides, I would suspect that local case law would carry more weight than the case you cited.

Perhaps an attorney will chime in and give an opinion soon.

Jeff said...

Indiana's "Stop and Identify" law doesn't apply to someone who isn't stopped for an infraction.

IC 34-28-5-3.5
Refusal to identify self
Sec. 3.5. A person who knowingly or intentionally refuses to provide either the person's:
(1) name, address, and date of birth; or
(2) driver's license, if in the person's possession;
to a law enforcement officer who has stopped the person for an infraction or ordinance violation commits a Class C misdemeanor.

Uh, so your mileage may vary... I still do not think he broke the law. As far as the paraphernalia, if it wasn't obtained lawfully, I don't think it can be used against him....

Daniel said...

You could talk all day about how they violated your rights, but the sad reality is, you have no rights.. only privileges that can can be taken away at any time for any reason. The police are supposed to protect us, but instead they harass innocent people and we're just supposed to bitch up and take it. I'm glad you had the balls to do what you thought was the right thing to do.

Ryan M. Powell said...

Thanks Daniel.

You know what? I am going to talk all day about how they violated my rights, and I think all you folks are gonna be really interested in what I still have to say here.

Even though I don't really care anymore how many people read this blog, I'm glad there are at least a few people who have shown interest in this story because I think it is very important for me to share it and I think this story may end up making a positive impact on our sick society.

I've had my rights stripped from me by cops so many times that I possess some very unique insight regarding this topic. It may not have happened to you or anyone you know yet, but police misconduct and brutality is an epidemic that we the American people need to police much more closely. I haven't said much about any of my other experiences with police misconduct, but it's had a profound and life-changing effect on me.

Anyway, Part II of this story should be up sometime tonight. Part II is probably only about a third of what I've already written, but I don't want this story to be one overwhelmingly long post. It's gonna end up being so long that I think it's best to publish in installments every few days.

benmudd said...

Hey Ryan, I'm in the UK and whilst we only get to see a bit of US policing on cop shows, I am surprised at the seeming willingness of state troopers/cops to elevate their response to include hands on holsters and what I would consider to be pretty facist language. I'm no lilly livered liberalist, and I like my cops not to take any shit however, I also expect them to be behave as if they are accountable to me as a citizen (or in our case a subject of her Majesty the Queen!). I imagine this particular experience of yours occurs over here from time to time but I can't imagine it ever going to court unless YOU were suing THEM for rights violations. Plus, whilst the legality of their actions may be in dispute and you may face further difficulties, I am totally with you in that I don't believe peacefull law abiding citizens in any country should be dragged over hot coals for failing to provide id'. Orwell would have a fit, so here's to public disobedience in the country that was formed out of fighting for freedom against unfair and unnecessary tyranny! Good luck in court too!

damackay said...

It's been awhile since I looked into the topic. My gut said, "you don't have to identify". But then I went and looked up the current state of the law and found Hiibel (2004) (already cited by others here).

Oh well, another "right" bites the dust.

Hiibel essentially means that a State can enforce a "stop and identify" statute, at least as far as penalizing you if you refuse to give your name (requiring you to hand over your driver's license or other photo ID may be up in the air...I'd have to look).

Stop and Identify statutes don't come into play, however, unless the Terry standard of "reasonable suspicion" of your commission of a crime has been met and you are detained as a result.

So, what crime(s) might the officer have reasonably suspected you had committed? I'll set aside the possibilities based on knowledge or reports of fleeing suspects as we could speculate all day about those.

Were you physically present upon the "roadway" of a US Hwy or Interstate? I believe it is technically illegal to walk, stand, or sit on those (off the top of my head). I'd have to look it up to be sure (and I'm not going to right now).

Were you soliciting rides (hitchhiking, not prostitution, which would add another layer of complication...) on the Hwy or Interstate? This, I think, is also a crime. Of course, the officer would have to have seen you solicit or have been told by a witness who claimed to have seen you doing so, or somehow have other knowledge that would reasonably lead to the conclusion that you may have been naughty.

Those are just some of my thoughts and questions. If the officer had no way of knowing you were violating any law, then you may have a viable claim for violation of your constitutional rights. If, however, the officer can pony up some criminal-esque behavior on your part, then I think such a claim would not survive.

RobW said...

Hi Jeff, thanks for replying.

I used the Wiki page out of laziness, but it's description is accurate. The complete text of the decision can be found at, a very useful site indeed, and the SCOTUS has a website that includes transcripts of proceedings. I was just lazy. ;)

...has stopped the person for an infraction or ordinance violation commits a Class C misdemeanor.

Yeah, that looks like the passage which would toss this case since it doesn't appear, even in the cop's own report, that there was sufficient reasonable suspicion of any crime being committed. Only an alleged phoned-in complaint- from another law enforcement (corrections) officer. What the fuck, over?

Maybe, Ryan, you've got a case for a civil suit after all. IF you can get a lawyer to take it. Without the possibility of damages, good luck with that unless you can pay upfront. They'd have to show not only that you were wronged, but they'd also have to demonstrate actual harm and attach a dollar amount to it. And no doubt ask for punitive damages as well, but judges (who work with police and DA's every day) usually aren't too keen on that.

But keep up the posting. If nothing else, it sure helps to get people to talk about this stuff.

And know that you're not alone: Digby, an A-list liberal blogger, often points up issues of ever-increasing police power, especially the unrestrained use of tasers as devices to enforce compliance, a purpose for which they were never intended and amounts to public torture for the sake of cops' convenience. It's crazy.

Also, Radley Balko's blog gets a lot of attention to it and this sort of thing is pretty much all he writes about. Maybe, Ryan, you could e-mail him and get a write-up. Couldn't hurt, right?

Balko also writes for Reason magazine and is, imo, one of the few libertarians worth taking seriously. He's not interested in pie-in-the-sky theory, and he's not just a cheap-labor conservative pretending to be libertarian. He walks the walk and makes civil liberties his cause.

Ok, now on to parts II and III. This may take a while. As always, Ryan, good luck.

RDavis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.