Chesterton Tribune

Panel works to clarify right to resist police

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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 meeting.

“I just didn’t want it to be open season on law enforcement,” said Lawson, a Democrat.

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 batterers.

“Police get the benefit of the doubt,” said Andrew Hedges, the panel’s attorney.

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.


Posted 10/21/2011