Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trespass Conviction of Church Member Reversed

In a 2-1 decision in Semenick v. State of Indiana, (IN App., Oct. 9, 2012), and Indiana appellate court reversed the criminal trespass conviction of a long-time church member who was evicted from church services by an off-duty police officer acting as a security guard after the church member complained that a volunteer greeter was speaking too loudly with others during the service.  The majority held that the church member had a right to be on church premises and there was no evidence that the off-duty police officer had authority to take sides in a dispute between members and ask one of them to leave. Judge Mathias dissenting  argued that defendant's conduct during services was disruptive. The jury, he argued, could reasonably conclude that defendant did not have a contractual interest in the property at issue, and knowingly or intentionally refused to leave the Church after having been asked to do so by an agent of the Church.