Chesterton Tribune

Indiana House backs bill on right to resist police

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Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana House approved a bill Thursday laying out when people are justified in using force against police officers, a measure reacting to the public uproar over a state Supreme Court decision over the rights of the public to resist police.

The House voted 74-24 in favor of the proposal that says residents are protected by the state's self-defense law if they reasonably believe force is necessary to protect themselves from unlawful actions by an officer.

It also states that a person who is committing a crime is not justified in using any force against a police officer a change made this week after police and prosecutor groups told lawmakers they worried the proposal as previously written would spark more violence toward officers.

Supporters said the proposal strengthened the legal rights of people against government agents improperly entering their homes.

"This is the bedrock of all the freedoms that every United States citizen enjoys," said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville.

Last year's Supreme Court ruling that residents couldn't resist officers even during an illegal entry brought Indiana law in line with most other states. But about 250 people rallied at the Statehouse, contending the decision infringed on their constitutional rights and contradicted centuries of common law precedent regarding homeowners' rights and the limits of police power.

Some lawmakers argued Thursday that the Legislature shouldn't give people justification for attacking officers,

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said the Supreme Court had drawn a "bright line" protecting police and that the public can contest illegal police actions in court or seek to have rogue officers disciplined.

"I believe this goes much too far and is capable of being misunderstood," DeLaney said.

Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond, a former police officer, told House members they shouldn't back a measure that could lead to an "open season" by criminals against officers who are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect the public.

The Senate approved a different version of the bill in January, and House and Senate negotiators must agree on a single version of the bill by the end of next week, when legislative leaders expect to adjourn this year's session.

The Supreme Court's decision stemmed from a case in which an Evansville man was convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest for blocking and shoving a police officer who tried to enter his home without a warrant after his wife called 911 during an argument. The man was shocked with a stun gun and arrested. His wife told officers he hadn't hit her.

The House bill outlines circumstances when a "person is justified in using reasonable force against a law enforcement officer," which include protecting oneself or another person from the use of unlawful force and preventing an illegal entry of one's home or vehicle.

It also specifies that the use of deadly force against a police officer is not justified unless the person reasonably believes the officer is acting illegally and the deadly force is needed to prevent serious injury to themselves or another person.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said the Legislature can't stop people intent on attacking police officers, but that the proposal would better guide courts and juries in cases where an officer's actions are questioned.

"This clarifies that we're back to the same standard that we had in this country, in this state, for more than 200 years," Bosma said.



Posted 3/1/2012