Ms. Sepulveda’s action in getting between Lt. Place and Mr. Dunlap, combined with her action moving Lt. Place’s Taser … we do not find that Ms. Sepulveda’s conviction for Resisting Arrest is against the manifest weight of the evidence.

 

State v. Sepulveda

2023 – Ohio – 3429

Third District Appellate Court

Auglaize County

September 25, 2023

 

Veronica Fell and Injured her Head

On Saturday June 19, 2022, Ms. Veronica Sepulveda fell and injured her head. As a result of the injury, 911 was called and emergency services (“EMS”) responded from the fire department. In addition, Lieutenant Shannon Place of the Wapakoneta Police Department responded to the scene, indicating that law enforcement generally responded to EMS calls to provide assistance.

Six Shots of Whiskey

Once at the scene, a paramedic with the fire department made contact with Ms. Sepulveda and determined that she had a laceration on the back of her head. Ms. Sepulveda informed the paramedic that she had been drinking alcohol, and the paramedic believed she was intoxicated based on his experience. On the body cam footage introduced into evidence, Ms. Sepulveda can be heard stating that she had over six shots of whiskey.

Veronica Fell a Second Time

The paramedic testified that he and his partner attempted to bandage Ms. Sepulveda’s head but she pulled the bandage off. When the paramedic attempted to reapply the bandage while Ms. Sepulveda was standing, Ms. Sepulveda fell on the ground.

Tyler is of No Help

As the paramedic attempted to assist Ms. Sepulveda while she was on the ground, Ms. Sepulveda’s boyfriend, Mr. Tyler Dunlap, interfered. Mr. Dunlap, who was also intoxicated based on Lt. Place’s testimony, sat on the ground behind Ms. Sepulveda’s head and was holding her, preventing EMS from treating her. EMS personnel, Ms. Sepulveda, and Lt. Place all repeatedly asked Mr. Dunlap to step away from Ms. Sepulveda so she could be treated. Mr. Dunlap, mostly silent, did not comply.

Tyler is Detained

At one point, Lt. Place was able to get Mr. Dunlap’s attention and she asked him to move away from Ms. Sepulveda. In response, Mr. Dunlap glared at her “in a manner that made [her] feel like he was going to either strike [her] or attempt to fight.” Mr. Dunlap continued not to move despite all those at the scene attempting to get him to do so, including Ms. Sepulveda. Eventually Lt. Place advised Mr. Dunlap that she was going to detain him so he could be removed from the situation. At that point, Mr. Dunlap rapidly got up and told Lt. Place that she was not going to detain him.

Tyler Breaks Lt. Place’s Finger

Lt. Place told Mr. Dunlap that he was going to be placed under arrest. Mr. Dunlap continued not to comply so Lt. Place unholstered her Taser. Lt. Place testified, “when I unholstered my Taser I had ahold of his hand and there’s a slight jostling of our hands. He was able to manipulate my hand, grab mine and I felt a pop in my left ring finger.” Mr. Dunlap had broken Lt. Place’s ring finger on her left hand.

Veronica Overcomes Her Inability to Stand and Interferes with Tyler’s Arrest

As Lt. Place was attempting to get Mr. Dunlap to comply with her orders, Ms. Sepulveda got up off of the ground and she came between Mr. Dunlap and Lt. Place. Ms. Sepulveda physically batted the Taser away so that it was not pointing at Mr. Dunlap. The interaction was recorded on Lt. Place’s body camera.

Tyler is Arrested and Charged

As a result of the incident, Mr. Dunlap was arrested and charged with Assault, Resisting Arrest, and Misconduct at an Emergency.

Veronica is Charged with Obstructing and Resisting

On June 21, 2022, Ms. Sepulveda was charged with Obstructing Official Business in violation of O.R.C. §2921.31(A), and Resisting Arrest in violation of O.R.C. §2921.33(A). Ms. Sepulveda pled not guilty to the charges and proceeded to a jury trial. The jury convicted Ms. Sepulveda of Resisting Arrest as charged, but acquitted her of Obstructing Official Business. Ms. Sepulveda appeals her conviction for Resisting Arrest.

Resisting Arrest

Ms. Sepulveda was convicted of Resisting Arrest in violation of O.R.C. §2921.33(A), which reads, “No person, recklessly or by force, shall resist or interfere with a lawful arrest of the person or another.”

Veronica Testifies in Contradiction to the Body Camera Footage

Ms. Sepulveda testified in this matter that even on the body camera footage it was evident that she was telling Mr. Dunlap to comply with the orders of Lt. Place. She testified that she was not trying to impede the arrest and that she just wanted treatment from EMS. Further, she testified that she did not see Lt. Place’s Taser, and that she did not “jump in the middle” of an arrest.

Body Camera Footage is Admitted to Evidence

This case largely concerns credibility of the witnesses, which is the province of the jury. Further, Lt. Place’s version of events was supported by her body camera footage, which clearly showed Ms. Sepulveda interfering with the arrest of Mr. Dunlap. Thus the video evidence supported Lt. Place’s testimony and contradicted at least some of Ms. Sepulveda’s. 

Moreover, while Ms. Sepulveda may have encouraged Mr. Dunlap to comply with Lt. Place’s orders when Mr. Dunlap refused to move away from Ms. Sepulveda on the ground, this did not stop Ms. Sepulveda from getting between Mr. Dunlap and Lt. Place when the arrest was taking place shortly thereafter. Ms. Sepulveda’s action in getting between Lt. Place and Mr. Dunlap, combined with her action moving Lt. Place’s Taser, led to her charges in this case.

Third District Appellate Court Upholds the Resisting Arrest Conviction

After reviewing the evidence, we do not find that Ms. Sepulveda’s conviction for Resisting Arrest is against the manifest weight of the evidence. This is not a situation where the evidence weighs strongly against Ms. Sepulveda’s conviction. Therefore, her first assignment of error is overruled.

Note:  There were two other appeals filed in this case.  Both of those appeals were also overruled; however, they are not evaluated in this article.

Thirty Days in Jail and Two Years of Community Control

Ms. Sepulveda was placed on community control for two years, and she was sentenced to ninety days in jail, with sixty days suspended.

Information for this article was obtained from State v. Sepulveda, 2023 – Ohio – 3429.

State v. Sepulveda, 2023 – Ohio – 3429 was issued by the Third District Appellate Court on September 25, 2023 and is binding in the following Ohio Counties: Allen, Auglaize, Crawford, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Logan, Marion, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Seneca, Shelby, Union, Van Wert and Wyandot.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Resisting Arrest – To successfully prosecute a defendant for resisting the arrest of another, the prosecution [law enforcement] must demonstrate an affirmative act that actually interfered with the arrest. Here, Ms. Sepulveda stood between Mr. Dunlap and Lt. Place’s and batted the taser from pointing in the direction of Mr. Dunlap.  This action followed the felonious action of Mr. Dunlap after he had just broken Lt. Place’s finger.  These two actions; standing in between the lieutenant and the arrestee and batting the taser from pointing in the direction of Mr. Dunlap was enough affirmative acts to charge and convict Ms. Sepulveda of O.R.C. §2921.33(A) Resisting Arrest “No person, recklessly or by force, shall resist or interfere with a lawful arrest of the person or another.”
  2. Value of Body Camera Video – Sepulveda testified that she did not “jump in the middle” of the arrest of Mr. Dunlap. Yet, she testified under oath, that she did not commit this act, yet both her attorney and Ms. Sepulveda had previously watched the body camera footage.  The value of body camera footage cannot be understated.  This is a very good example of quality police work wherein Lt. Place’s report and testimony aligned with the body camera footage.  Law enforcement should mirror these professional actions to review footage prior to writing reports and testimony.
  3. Pre-Sent Arms! Lt. Place should be highly commended for her actions on Saturday June 19, 2022 to take charge of the situation so EMS could treat Ms. Sepulveda for her head injury – even after sustaining a broken finger. Well done!

Does your agency train on Resisting Arrest?

Don’t fail your training.

Don’t let your training fail you!

Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!

Robert H. Meader Esq.