SB 1 concerning the right to defend against unlawful entry is a reaction to the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Barnes v. State. It appears to give individuals the right to resist residential entry by law enforcement officers under limited circumstances. But only if the resident doesn’t actually know it’s a law enforcement officer.
Just as a reminder, the basic facts in the Barnes case:
The police apparently got called to the apartment to respond to domestic violence in process. Husband was throwing stuff around the apartment and had apparently ripped a phone out of Wife’s hands and thrown it against the wall. When the police got there, Husband & Wife met the police in the parking lot. Police followed them back to the apartment, Husband barred entry while Wife said things like “just let them in.” Police tried to force their way, and Husband resisted physically.
The first red flag I see in the proposed legislation is that it has a “purpose” subdivision. In my mind, legislation is supposed to be telling who gets to do what to whom and under what circumstances. “Purpose” provisions are attempts to talk over some lack of articulation; lack spackling a hole in the wall.
But, on to the meat of the legislation. It says, A person may use force to prevent or a law enforcement officer’s unlawful entry into the person’s dwelling or into the dwelling of a member of the person’s immediate family if the intruder is not wearing a police uniform and has not identified themselves as a police officer. The person can also resist entry if the police officer is not engaged in the enforcement of the officer’s official duty. The person can use physical force and is not required to retreat.
However, the provision does not apply to any of the following:
(1) An investigation of suspected domestic or family violence (as defined in IC 34-6-2-34.5).
(2) The entry into a dwelling by a law enforcement officer who has a reasonable belief that a person inside the dwelling has been or is at risk of physical harm.
(3) An entry into a residence by invitation of at least one (1) adult resident, unless one (1) or more other adult residents
object to the entry.
(4) The entry into a dwelling by a law enforcement officer in hot pursuit.
(5) A person who is committing or is escaping after the commission of a crime.
(6) The entry into a dwelling by a law enforcement officer with a warrant.
What a recipe for disaster. The resident believes the intruder is not an officer. The officer believes someone inside has been or is at risk of physical harm. Neither knows what the other is thinking. Officer attempts to enter. Resident resists physically. Officer is harmed. Resident goes to jail for assaulting a police officer because the law didn’t apply because the police officer reasonably believed someone was at risk of harm.