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Legislative committee to look at Barnes decision

June 8, 2011

Not since daylight-saving time has an issue agitated Sen. Brent Steele’s constituents as much as the recent decision by the Indiana Supreme Court on illegal police entry.

Steele, R-Bedford, said a lot of people are upset over the decision in Barnes v. State, handed down by a split Supreme Court in May, which ended the common-law right to resist illegal entry into a home by police. Steele said the ruling flies in the face of the Castle Doctrine, codified in Indiana Code 35-41-3-2 in 2006, which says that a person is justified in using reasonable force and doesn’t have a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent or terminate someone’s unlawful entry or attack on the person’s home.

Now, Steele and other legislators are going to address the fallout from the decision in a special committee.

Chair of the Legislative Council, President Pro Tempore Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, asked Steele to chair the committee created Tuesday to look into the Barnes decision. The committee is also comprised of Sen. Tim Lanane; D-Anderson, Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, who is a former police officer; and Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero. The committee plans on meeting toward the end of June. Steele said even if the Supreme Court rehears the case and alters or narrows its decision, the Legislature still must act.

“There will be a decision some day that comes on the Fourth (Amendment), and (the justices) will say the Legislature didn’t do anything” so it will be up the court to interpret statute, he said.

One of the possible solutions is to put into code all of the exigent circumstances that could be used to justify a warrantless entry, but Steele isn’t sure yet what decisions the committee may make. They will complete a final report with suggested solutions by the end of October.

 “We are going to fix it,” he said.

In addition to the study committee on the Barnes decision, the Legislative Council released the topics interim study committees will be looking into this summer. They include redistricting, sex crimes against children, critical problems in the criminal justice and corrections systems, and sentencing issues. A complete list is available on the General Assembly’s website.

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