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T.D.F. v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

March 16, 2018

State of Alabama

         Appeal from Houston Juvenile Court (JU-13-378.16; JU-13-378.17)

          WELCH, JUDGE.

         T.D.F., a juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent based on the juvenile court's finding that he committed the offenses of second-degree assault, JU-13-378.16, a violation § 13A-6-21(a)(4), Ala. Code 1975, and resisting arrest, JU-13-378.17, a violation of § 13A-10-41, Ala. Code 1975.[1] The juvenile court placed T.D.F. on probation and ordered T.D.F. to complete the Pathway Residential Treatment Program. Probation was to be reviewed in six months. This appeal followed.


         Officer Christopher Thompson with the Dothan Police Department testified that on April 7, 2017, at approximately 4:50 p.m., he and Officer Lindsay Holloway, who were patrolling in separate vehicles, responded to an emergency 911 call made by S.F. reporting her son, T.D.F., as being a disorderly juvenile. Officer Holloway arrived at S.F.'s home, 343 Darlington Circle, before Officer Thompson. After speaking with S.F., Officer Holloway contacted Officer Thompson and told him that T.D.F. had left S.F.'s home on foot and was walking toward 3rd Avenue carrying two red suitcases.

         Officer Thompson testified that he and Officer Holloway originally wanted only to find T.D.F. and talk to him to find out what was going on and to find out if he was running away from home. The officers knew that T.D.F. had a juvenile probation officer; they intended to contact T.D.F.'s probation officer to see what needed to be done, depending on the situation. Officer Holloway located T.D.F. on Donna Drive. When Officer Thompson arrived at that location, he observed Officer Holloway outside her vehicle and T.D.F. walking away from her while she was ordering him to talk to her. Officer Thompson drove his vehicle past T.D.F. and Officer Holloway to the next intersection to block T.D.F. from walking away. When Officer Thompson got out of his vehicle, "[T.D.F.] began yelling 'f*ck y'all'.... He was out in the middle of the street doing that." (R. 27.) Officer Thompson affirmed that "[y]elling 'f*ck y'all' to the police is not illegal." (R. 28.) Officer Thompson stated that he

"informed [T.D.F.] to 'come here' so [he] could talk to him. [T.D.F.] refused. [T.D.F.] started using very colorful language. Again, I told him to come here again. I grabbed the tail of his shirt. At that point [T.D.F.] became very aggressive, started flailing his arms, and at some point Officer Holloway was struck."

(R. 14.) Officer Thompson stated that he was authorized to lay hands on T.D.F. because T.D.F. was given a lawful order to stop and did not comply.

"Q. [Defense Counsel:] ... Is that something that you're allowed to do as a police officer, to put hands on somebody?
"A. [Officer Thompson:] Yes, ma'am. I gave him a lawful order to stop so that we can investigate a potential crime.
"Q. And the potential crime being?
"A. He was a runaway juvenile, off of his medication, acting disorderly, possibly involved in domestic violence."

(R. 24.)

         Officer Thompson explained that, "once [he] grabbed [T.D.F.'s] shirt, ... that's when the physical response from [T.D.F.] happened." (R. 25.) "Immediately when [T.D.F.] began flailing his arms and continuing to yell profanities, [Officer Thompson] informed him that he was going to be placed under arrest." (R. 26.) Officer Thompson testified that there was no time to tell T.D.F. what he was under arrest for because everything happened quickly. However, Officer Thompson also testified that he told T.D.F. that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. However, Officer Thompson stated that T.D.F. was told to stop resisting so the officers could investigate whether he was a runaway juvenile who was off his medication and also, possibly involved in domestic violence. "[T.D.F.] struck Officer Holloway and continued to throw punches at both of [the officers]." (R. 15.) T.D.F. punched Officer Holloway in her face with his fist. T.D.F. was "flailing violently." (R. 16.) Officer Thompson was able to get one handcuff on T.D.F.'s right wrist before all three individuals fell to the ground in the middle of street. T.D.F. was cursing the entire time. Officer Thompson guessed that it took possibly as long as two minutes to gain control over T.D.F. Officer Holloway was injured during the melee. Ultimately, T.D.F. was taken to the Dothan Police Department to talk with an investigator, but he refused.

         Officer Holloway with the Dothan Police Department stated that on April 7, 2017, she was dispatched to 343 Darlington Circle as Officer Thompson's backup officer. She arrived before Officer Thompson and she spoke with S.F.

"My understanding was that [T.D.F.] came home from school, I believe, and [S.F.] said that he was not acting right. [T.D.F.] had been throwing things around the house and she said he was going to leave. He was going to pack his bags and leave. She said he was not on his medicine[2].... I asked her if she wanted me to bring him back to the house if I made contact with him, and she said, 'No, ' she did not want him there."

(R. 36.) Officer Holloway assumed that, because S.F. did not want T.D.F. returned home, she wanted the officers to contact T.D.F.'s probation officer. Officer Holloway clarified that S.F. "never" said anything about domestic violence or indicated that she wanted T.D.F. arrested. (R. 37.) Officer Holloway said that, because she thought [T.D.F.] was off of his medication, there needed to be a welfare check on him to make sure he was okay and that that was what she intended to do. Officer Holloway testified that S.F. did not tell her that S.F. had called the police a second time to inform the dispatcher that the officers were no longer needed because the situation had resolved itself and that T.D.F. was going to stay with his aunt.

         Officer Holloway left S.F.'s house and soon saw T.D.F. walking with his suitcases in the street on Donna Drive. Officer Holloway stated that she parked her vehicle "catty-corner" to T.D.F.'s path and got out of her vehicle. (R. 30.) She saw Officer Thompson arriving. When she got out of her vehicle, she "attempted to contact [T.D.F.], " but he started "cussing at [her], yelling 'F you.'" (R. 30.) Meanwhile, Officer Thompson parked his vehicle "about four car lengths" in front of T.D.F., who was still walking down the street away from Officer Holloway toward Officer Thompson. (R. 30.) T.D.F. stopped about 10 feet in front of Officer Thompson's vehicle. T.D.F., "threw the suitcases down and tried to take off when [the officers] were trying to get him to come talk to [them]." (R. 31.) "Officer Thompson pulled the back of [T.D.F.'s] shirttail to try to get him to stop, and that's when the fight started." (R. 31.)

"Officer Thompson and [T.D.F.] started fighting. [Officer Thompson] tried to get his arm behind [T.D.F.] and place [T.D.F.] under arrest, and so I went to attempt to grab the other arm -- I believe it was [T.D.F.'s] left arm. So there was one of us on each side and we just -- we could not get [T.D.F.] to the ground. Every time we would tell him to stop resisting, he would fight a little harder."

(R. 31.) Officer Holloway believed that Officer Thompson advised T.D.F. that he was under arrest. Officer Holloway testified that T.D.F. was being arrested for disorderly conduct because he had failed to obey a lawful order from Officer Thompson. While the officers attempted to get the handcuffs on T.D.F., T.D.F. struck Officer Holloway on her right jaw with his fist. Immediately, she could not hear from her right ear, and her hearing did not return for two weeks.[3]She had to go to the emergency room immediately following the incident and then see a doctor two or three times over a three-week period. She also had an "extremely bruised collarbone, " a bruised tail bone, and scratches on her knees and elbows. (R. 32.) Additionally, her Costa brand sunglasses were broken and her G-Shock brand watch was shattered.

         The State rested its case, and T.D.F. moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that there had been no prima facie case of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. The juvenile court granted the motion as to the criminal-mischief charge but deferred ruling on the disorderly-conduct charge.

         T.D.F. testified that when he came home from school on April 7, 2017, he was mad and he got "into it" with his grandmother who was at his home -- it was not physical. Because he was mad, he decided to go to his aunt's house. He had his clothes and a game in his suitcases and he planned to stay the weekend with his aunt. His mother, S.F., knew those were his plans, and she had no objection. When he encountered the police on Donna Street, Officer Holloway pulled up, and he just looked at her and kept walking. T.D.F. denied that he dropped his suitcases and tried to run from the officers. He said that Officer Thompson got in front of him, and T.D.F. did not want to talk to the officers, so he tried to walk away, but according to T.D.F., Officer Thompson grabbed him without saying anything to T.D.F. When Officer Thompson grabbed T.D.F.'s shirt, Officer Holloway grabbed his leg. Then the officers were trying to talk, but T.D.F. told them that he did not have to talk to them. Then, the officers began trying to handcuff T.D.F., and T.D.F. stated that he was not going to be handcuffed because he knew he had not done anything wrong. T.D.F. said a third officer, Officer Jay Arnold, arrived and choked him, and that's when he began using profanity and when they got the handcuffs on T.D.F. He was never told that he was under arrest, and the officers never said he was being disorderly or resisting arrest. He did not throw any punches during his struggle with the officers, and specifically, he testified, he did not punch Officer Holloway.

         S.F. testified that on April 7, 2017, T.D.F. was 16 years old. She telephoned for the police because T.D.F. was mad and was being loud. She explained that T.D.F. was mad because his grandmother had forgotten to pick him up from school and he had had to walk home. S.F. told the dispatcher to send an officer to her house. By the time S.F. got off the telephone, T.D.F. had calmed down, so S.F. telephoned his aunt and arranged for T.D.F. to go to the aunt's house. S.F. called the emergency 911 dispatcher again and told her not to send the police because the situation had been resolved, but the dispatcher said she was sending an officer anyway. S.F. also explained that T.D.F. had probably not taken his medicine, but that it was not working as well as it used to and probably needed adjusting. S.F. testified that she did tell Officer Holloway about her second call to emergency 911 canceling her request for an officer. S.F. did not say that T.D.F. was a runaway or that he had committed a crime or done anything to cause him to be arrested or that he was dangerous or that he needed to be taken off the streets. He had not done anything physical, it was "just his mouth." (R. 55.) That was why she called for the police. She explained to the officer that T.D.F. had been mad about being left at school, and that he gets loud and fussy when his medicine is not right. She further told Officer Holloway that the situation was under control and that T.D.F. was on his way to his aunt's house. S.F. never said that T.D.F. had thrown anything. Officer Holloway told S.F. that she intended to look for T.D.F. anyway, and she asked S.F. if she wanted T.D.F. brought home. S.F. told Officer Holloway not to bring T.D.F. home because he was spending the weekend with his aunt. S.F. testified that about five months earlier T.D.F. behaved the same way, and S.F. had called for the police. That time, the police came to her house and they talked to T.D.F. and calmed him down and that was what she was expecting this time, but the situation resolved itself before the police arrived. According to S.F., she explained all that to Officer Holloway.

         At the close of all the evidence, T.D.F. moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the police had no probable cause to stop him. He argued that his mother had testified that, even though he had been loud, he was not dangerous, he was not a runaway, she knew where he was going, and there had been no domestic violence. He was walking down the street when the police tried to stop him and talk to him, but then they prevented him from walking away by physically detaining him without any probable cause to believe that he had done anything wrong. The State responded that T.D.F. was a 16-year-old minor on the streets shortly following a display of bad behavior that caused his mother to telephone emergency 911 for help. T.D.F. left home under these circumstances. The State argued that the police had every reason to approach T.D.F. to investigate the situation for which they had been summoned. The State argued that at the time T.D.F. was arrested, the arrest was "just and there was probable cause." (R. 60.)

         The juvenile court entered a judgment for an acquittal as to the disorderly-conduct charge, but refused to enter a judgment of acquittal as to the second-degree assault and resisting-arrest charges. The ...

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