INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to file criminal charges against an Indy woman arrested in Lawrence last week under Indiana’s new 25-foot police encroachment law.

Court documents show that a woman from Indianapolis was arrested Monday in Lawrence and preliminarily booked for “obstruction by encroaching on an investigation,” among other charges.

For more information on the woman’s arrest, click here.

After reviewing the case brought to them by the Lawrence Police Department, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday it has declined to file criminal charges against the woman.

A report filed by the Lawrence Police Department on Monday, Oct. 2, shows that officers were called around 3 p.m. to the 4200 block of N. Franklin Road for an investigation.

According to the LPD report, during the investigation officers arrested a woman who was subsequently booked into jail on the following charges:

  • Escape, a level 5 felony,
  • Resisting law enforcement, a level A misdemeanor, and
  • Obstruction – encroaching on an investigation, a level C misdemeanor.

According to a police narrative written by an LPD officer, the woman was seen recording officers on her phone while they were serving an arrest warrant at a local gas station.

While the woman was initially over 25 feet away and thus complying with the law, LPD said she eventually got closer. She was later arrested under a new Indiana law after police said she came too close to officers.

“Unlawful encroachment on an investigation” is a law passed by Indiana legislators earlier this year that gives police a 25-foot buffer to perform any of their duties.

Under the law, which was approved over the summer, a person can be arrested if they move toward police “after the law enforcement officer has ordered [them] to stop approaching.”

However, it appears the charge will not stick in this case.

“After reviewing this arrest, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is not filing charges for Unlawful Encroachment in this matter.

State Sen. Rodney Pol said other states have struck down similar laws and anticipates Indiana will follow suit.

“There are going to be some very good arguments as it pertains to whether or not this will pass constitutional muster, and I think we’ll find that out here shortly,” State Sen. Pol said.

State Sen. Lonnie M. Randolph said 25 feet is too far for phone cameras to record incidents effectively—potentially impacting Hoosiers’ first amendment rights.

”It’s just a pretense to prevent people from exercising their rights that they have to videotape the conduct of a police officer,” State Sen. Randolph said.

The Unlawful Encroachment statute, which is currently being challenged as unconstitutional in federal court, must be applied judiciously and deliberately to strike a balance between the right of citizens to observe law enforcement and the need for officers to execute their duties free from undue interference.

The Probable Cause Affidavit submitted does not allege that Ms. Nichols interfered with a police investigation or the efforts of medics to provide care to an injured individual on scene.”

Michael Leffler, Communications Director for the Marion Co. Prosecutor’s Office

As referred to in the above statement, the passage of the State’s police encroachment law was not universally praised in the Central Indiana area.

Less than two months after the bill was approved, the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit claiming that the new law prevents Hoosier law enforcement from being held accountable.

The law, which went into effect on July 1, 2023, was called a violation of constitutional rights by the ACLU, which claimed that citizens have a right to “observe and record the police.”

Ken Falk, Legal Director of the ACLU of Indiana, said although Ms. Nichol’s arrest will not play into its challenge of the law, a hearing is set for next week in federal court in the case of another individual he says was impacted by the law.

”We have one person who submitted a declaration in our case in South Bend who was actually behind police tape, and was told by two officers that was fine, but a third officer said, ‘No, you have to move back,'” Falk said.

More recently, several Indiana news media outlets, including FOX59/CBS4, filed a lawsuit against Indiana saying that the buffer law severely limits journalists’ ability to do their job.

The lawsuit, which was filed by outlets such as IndyStar and our partner station WANE in Fort Wayne, argues that the buffer law “unconstitutionally abridges the press’s ability” to report and hold public officials and law enforcement accountable.

Hannah Adamson also contributed to this report.