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Legislators file amicus brief asking for narrowed Barnes decision

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Seventy-one Indiana legislators have signed an amicus curiae brief that asks the Indiana Supreme Court to narrow its recent decision that held Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes. The defendant's attorney in the case has also asked for a rehearing.

Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis professor Joel M. Schumm filed the brief on behalf of the 40 state senators and 31 state representatives Wednesday. According to the court docket, Barnes' attorney Erin Berger filed a petition for rehearing Thursday.

“Few issues before this court have galvanized the public’s attention and concern as much as the declaration in this case that the right to reasonably resist an unlawful police entry into a home is no longer recognized under Indiana law,” said Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, in a statement referring to Richard Barnes v. State, No. 82S05-1007-CR-343. “Rehearing is appropriate to reconsider that holding in light of Indiana’s robust self-defense statute.”

The brief focuses on two areas: Indiana’s self-defense statute and the public policy concerns underlying it.

The legislators argue that the state’s self-defense statute has long allowed residents to use “reasonable” force if the person “reasonably believes” that force is necessary to prevent or end unlawful entry into his or her home. In 2006, the statute was broadened to say that residents don’t have a duty to retreat when faced with unlawful entry.

There are also concerns as to how this ruling impacts cases of police impersonators trying to gain entry into homes. The brief cites examples from Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Los Angeles in which someone falsely posed as a police officer to gain entry into a home and commit a crime.

“These headlines need not be replicated in Indiana. Rather, granting rehearing is appropriate to narrow this Court’s holding and apprise our citizens that they retain the venerable right to reasonably resist unlawful entry into their homes by police,” the brief states.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office represented the state, also supports a rehearing because of concerns that the ruling is too broad.

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