Chesterton Tribune

Panel chair says Legislature must address police entry ruling

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The General Assembly must pass legislation clarifying the right to protect one’s home from illegal police entry after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled recently that no such right exists, a key lawmaker said Wednesday after convening a study committee appointed to look into the matter.

State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said the court’s May ruling in Barnes v. Indiana appeared to affect both a common law right to protect one’s home from illegal entry and Indiana state law.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to do something legislatively,” Steele said.

The court’s 3-2 ruling upholding a conviction on a resisting law enforcement charge has met widespread disapproval across Indiana. Critics argue it violates the Fourth Amendment against illegal searches and centuries of common law precedent regarding homeowners’ rights. The defendant’s attorney, Attorney General Greg Zoeller and 71 lawmakers including Steele have asked the court to rehear the case.

Although the 11-page ruling clearly states the court was deciding “the question of whether Indiana should recognize the common-law right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers,” Steele and others said it might also affect Indiana statute, including a 2006 law that broadened Indiana residents’ right to protect themselves from unlawful entries into their homes.

Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, testified the 2006 state law expanded the right “that we don’t have to back down” and that the first purpose of government is to protect citizens.

“The justices back in May changed that,” Young said.

Young, who’s not a member of the study committee, has drafted a bill for lawmakers to consider next year that would clarify the right to resist unlawful police entry. Steele said that bill might emerge as the panel’s recommendation to the General Assembly.

The court’s ruling came in a Vanderburgh County case in which a man questioned about a domestic violence call scuffled with an officer who tried to enter his house without a warrant and against his will. The court determined that “allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.” It said the residents can sue police later for damages.

Lt. Mark Carnell, counsel for the Indiana State Police, said the ruling has had no impact on the agency’s procedures.

“We don’t see where this gives law enforcement any greater right to enter homes than it had before,” Carnell said.

Steele said the study panel will hold two more meetings, including one next month. A date has not been set. The panel also includes Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, and Reps. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, and Linda Lawson, D-Hammond.

There’s no timetable for the court to decide whether it will rehear the Barnes case.

 

 

Posted 6/30/2011

 

 

 

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