Chesterton Tribune

Indiana bill on right to resist police faces overhaul

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TOM DAVIES,

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A proposal aimed at assuring Indiana residents they sometimes can resist police officers entering their homes could see a key change sought by law enforcement groups, the House sponsor said Monday.

Prosecutor and police groups have objected to a list of limited situations of when officers can legally enter a private home, which was included in the bill the Senate approved 45-5 last month.

The Legislature has been working on a measure expanding self-defense rights following the public uproar over a state Supreme Court ruling last year that residents couldn’t use force against officers even during an illegal entry.

Republican Rep. Jud McMillin of Brookville, who is sponsoring the bill, said he is working with law enforcement officials on a new version to be considered by a House committee on Wednesday.

Changes from what the Senate approved would specify that residents are protected by the state’s self-defense law if they resist police officers who are acting illegally, McMillin said.

“We also want to make sure that it does not create the incentive for people to think that it’s OK to go out and use force against law enforcement officers,” he said.

The Senate version would allow residents to resist if the police officer wasn’t identified or on official duty. Officers would be allowed to enter homes when they have court warrants, are chasing a criminal suspect, believe someone inside is in danger or have permission from the residents.

The state Supreme Court’s police entry ruling brought Indiana law in line with most other states. But about 250 people attended a Statehouse rally against the decision, contending it infringed on their constitutional rights and contradicted centuries of common law precedent regarding homeowners’ rights and the limits of police power.

Republican Sen. Michael Young of Indianapolis, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said he worried the changes would leave too much potential gray area for both residents and police officers about what they could do.

“A court is now going to have to decide what is lawful and unlawful,” Young said. “As a citizen, you don’t get to know that in advance.”

The court decision came in 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.

Law enforcement officials have maintained that they don’t think legislators should enact a law laying out situations for when police entry is right or wrong.

Advocates for domestic violence victims also objected to the Senate’s decision to remove a provision that specifically allowed officers to enter a home while investigating suspected domestic violence. Young proposed that change, saying officers could still enter a home if they saw that someone was injured or believed a person was in danger.

The state’s current self-defense law states that anyone is justified in using reasonable force — even deadly force — to protect themselves or another person from an illegal attack and that a person has no legal obligation to retreat.

“We want to make sure that clearly officers who are acting beyond their duties or illegally don’t get any protection,” said David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. “They should be treated like anybody else.”

Any proposal advanced by the House criminal code committee will still need approval of the full House before going back to the Senate for further consideration.

 

Posted 2/21/2012