INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana residents could use reasonable force to resist
police entry into their homes in certain situations under a proposed bill
that lawmakers moved closer to adopting Thursday.
A legislative study panel reacting to a contentious Indiana Supreme Court
ruling denying the right to resist illegal police entry into one’s home
agreed on language that would allow reasonable force to deny entry if
residents don’t know that it’s police at their door or the officers aren’t
performing official duties.
The proposed legislation would not cover suspected cases of domestic
violence or imminent harm, crimes in progress, hot pursuit of suspects, or
the serving of warrants.
Panel member Rep. Linda Lawson, a former Hammond police officer with 25
years’ experience, said the legislation was “vastly improved” from earlier
discussions. Lawson said she was discouraged by what she characterized as
the anti-police tone of earlier discussions and was wary before Thursday’s
“I just didn’t want it to be open season on law enforcement,” said Lawson, a
The panel is due to vote next week on its recommended legislation to the
2012 General Assembly. Any proposed bills still would need to gain approval
from both chambers of the Legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The Supreme Court’s 3-2 May ruling in Barnes v. Indiana, upholding an
Evansville man’s conviction for resisting law enforcement, met widespread
disapproval across Indiana. Critics argued it violated the Fourth Amendment
protection against illegal searches and centuries of common law precedent
regarding homeowners’ rights.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller and 71 lawmakers asked the court to rehear the
case, and last month it reaffirmed its ruling but invited the General
Assembly to take up the matter and provide statutory defenses to resisting
police entry into a home.
The proposed bill does exactly that, saying people may use “reasonable
force, including violent force” — if they believe it’s necessary and have no
alternative — to prevent entry into their home if they do not know it’s
police or if the officer is not performing official duties.
State Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, the primary author of the proposed
legislation, said the exemptions including cases of imminent harm and hot
pursuit were important to include to protect police. He noted the Barnes
case involved a report of domestic violence in progress, and said that in
many such cases victims will not speak out in the presence of their
“Police get the benefit of the doubt,” said Andrew Hedges, the panel’s
Separate legislation proposed by Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, would make it
a Class D felony for law enforcement officers who knowingly enter a home
illegally when it’s not necessary to prevent injury or death. That language
may be included in Young’s proposed bill or may stand on its own.