Appeals Court Overturns Student’s Resisting Arrest, Battery Convictions
The court ruled the officer failed to give the student clear or direct orders or to give a warning before he forced him to the ground and handcuffed him.
An appeals court criticized prosecutors and police for charging a student with battery and resisting arrest after the student “lightly brushed” a school security officer’s hand in a hallway.
In a unanimous opinion overturning the student’s convictions last Wednesday, The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled the student’s touching of Redwood City Police Officer David Stahler, who was employed as a school resource officer, was “incidental” and not “intentional” as Stahler initiated contact, The Daily Post reports.
The appellate court wrote the officer needlessly escalated the interaction with the student which “should have been a minor school disciplinary matter into one with potential criminal implication.”
The April 2017 incident began after the then 17-year-old student and three of his friends skipped class. He was later found in the library by an aide, who told the teen he needed to go to the vice principal’s office, but the student wanted to go to the principal’s office instead and called his father on his cell phone.
Stahler told the juvenile court he met the student and the aide outside of the principal’s office and “encouraged” him to go to the vice principal’s office and to put down his cell phone, according to The Mercury News. When the student didn’t listen to his verbal commands, the officer says he lightly placed his hand on the student’s back.
According to Stahler, the student then “kind of brushed me, turned his shoulder (and) brushed my hand off of him.” He said the student “just lightly” came into contact with him but that he felt the contact was “basically a form of battery on me.”
Stahler then grabbed the student’s wrist because he believed the teen was disturbing other students by talking loudly on his phone outside of classrooms. When the teen pulled away, Stahler forced him to the ground and handcuffed him.
Prosecutors argued the teen has a problem with authority figures and that “there was clearly a violation of the cellphone policy, which seems to have started this whole incident and series of events.” Trial Judge Elizabeth Lee concluded the student committed battery and resisted arrest and ordered him to complete community service and pay a $10 fine.
The appeals court found there was not sufficient evidence for the battery conviction because nothing showed the student was trying to harm Stahler. The justices found no evidence to support the notion that the student resisted Stahler.
“There is no indication Stahler was enforcing any disciplinary rules in his encounter with Frank,” the court determined. “We fail to see how a student can be found to have resisted a peace officer’s encouragement and requests.”
The court also determined Stahler failed to give the student clear or direct orders or to give a warning or command before grabbing the student’s wrist.
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