Jury not properly instructed at man's trial

April 15, 2010

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a defendant's convictions of battery and resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct because the jury wasn't properly instructed about the man's defense of the right to reasonably resist unlawful entry into his home.

In Richard L. Barnes v. State of Indiana, No. 82A05-0910-CR-592, Richard Barnes appealed his Class A misdemeanor convictions of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting law enforcement, and Class B misdemeanor conviction of disorderly conduct. Barnes was arrested after police responded to a 9-1-1 call from his wife that Barnes was throwing things around the apartment. When police showed up, Barnes was leaving the apartment and yelled at the officer. When the officers tried to enter his apartment, Barnes continuously told them they couldn't come in. He shoved one officer when he tried to enter the apartment, which led to a struggle and Barnes being Tased.

Before his trial, Barnes tendered a jury instruction on the right of citizens to reasonably resist unlawful entry into the citizen's home. The trial court refused to give the instruction.

But the trial court erred in refusing to give that instruction. The evidence reasonably supports the conclusion that the police officer's attempted entry into the apartment was unlawful. There weren't any exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless entry into the apartment; Barnes' wife wasn't injured or in need of aid; and the wife's statements to Barnes to cooperate didn't constitute an invitation for the officer to enter the apartment. Whether Barnes' act of shoving the officer out of the doorway of his apartment was battery or "reasonable resistance" should be up to the jury to resolve, wrote Judge Paul Mathias. Barnes is entitled to a new trial on the battery and resisting law enforcement charges.

The appellate court also ruled that Barnes' speech when he was yelling at the officer was political. He was commenting on the conduct of an official acting under the color of the law, and his speech was protected. The state failed to prove Barnes' political expression rose to the level of disorderly conduct, wrote the judge.


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