Today at 1:00 p.m., the General Assembly’s “Barnes v. State” subcommittee will hold a hearing at 1:00 p.m. in room 431 of the State House. The purpose of the committee is to consider a legislative response to the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Barnes v. State (pdf) which held, in effect, you can’t use force against a police officer just because you think he is wrongfully entering your property. (See my prior entry here.)
At common law, a person had the right to resist, using reasonable force, the unlawful entry of police into one’s home. The Indiana Supreme Court decided, in effect, times have changed since the old days, and the costs outweigh the benefits in our modern times. In the bad old days, the king’s men could abduct you, hold you indefinitely, and torture you. And, if you did get out of the dungeon, you had no recourse against the king. Today, you have a right to bail, speedy trial, a probable cause hearing, etc., and you can sue the government for false imprisonment and other violations. With those protections, the dangers are reduced, and make the dangers on that side of the scale less than the dangers you get when you allow people in tense situations to make snap legal decisions about whether police action is lawful and use force to resist the police.
Not mentioned in this decision, but quite possibly on the judges’ minds, was the prospect of everyone who used force against the police making up some unlawful entry story in retrospect and making violence against the police a more viable alternative for criminals.
It looks like this is the subcommittee’s second meeting. The first was on June 29. Today, their agenda is to consider draft language and select a next meeting date. If anything, I’d suggest that they authorize resistance where there is imminent risk of significant physical harm. What I’d want to avoid is encouraging criminals to resist now, make up reasons for resisting later; particularly where citizens acting lawfully could gain redress by having a court or some neutral party sort it out later without encouraging violence in what could often be a tense, rapidly developing situation.