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Lawmakers finalizing post-Barnes legislation proposals

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A legislative study committee is about a week away from finalizing its proposals to clarify state law and allow for Indiana residents to use reasonable force to resist police entry into their homes in all but domestic violence and certain emergency situations.

The panel studying the Indiana Supreme Court’s rulings in Barnes v. State met Thursday to discuss possibilities on revising state statute on the heels of the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling. The high court held residents don’t have a common law right to resist an officer entering one’s home and that the state’s “castle doctrine” doesn’t allow reasonable resistance even if police are entering illegally.

In May, the justices upheld an Evansville man’s conviction of resisting law enforcement in a purported domestic violence situation, and that decision sparked widespread disapproval and debate across Indiana. Critics argued it violated the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal searches and infringed on homeowners’ rights. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and 71 lawmakers asked the court to rehear the case. Last month, the justices reaffirmed the original ruling but invited the General Assembly to take up the matter and provide statutory defenses to resisting police entry into a home.

The proposed legislation takes up that invitation, 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.

In proposed legislative drafts discussed Thursday, the panel decided they would specifically include law enforcement officers under the castle doctrine but that ability to resist wouldn’t apply to suspected cases of domestic violence or imminent harm, crimes in progress, the service of warrants or pursuit of suspects.

Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, one of the authors 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.

“We need a bright line (rule), to delineate when violence can be used, to protect the people and our police officers,” Young said.

Other versions discussed Thursday are all being weaved into the final legislation, a combination of the work by Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, and Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. Those proposals would make it a Class D felony for law enforcement officers to knowingly enter a home when it’s not necessary to prevent injury or death.

The panel is due to vote next week on its recommended legislation to the 2012 General Assembly. Any proposed bills still would need approval from the Indiana General Assembly and Gov. Mitch Daniels.
 

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