Legislature and State Government and Government & Economic Development and Government

Indiana panel backs bill on right to resist police

January 17, 2012

Indiana lawmakers are backing legislation to give residents limited rights to resist police officers entering their homes after the state Supreme Court said last year that residents can't violently resist, even when the entry is illegal.

The state Senate's criminal code committee voted 8-0 Tuesday to back the bill introduced in the wake of a public uproar over the court's May decision. Supporters say the bill is narrowly crafted to set out homeowners' rights, while police and prosecutors worry it could increase the risk for violence.

The bill would allow residents to resist if the police officer wasn't identified or on official duty. Officers would be allowed to enter homes when they have court warrants, are chasing a criminal suspect, believe someone inside is in danger or have permission from the residents.

"I think it brings protection not only to homeowners, but to law enforcement as well," said bill sponsor Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. "Both sides will be protected. They will know what the line is and no one should cross it."

The court decision came in a case in which an Evansville man was convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest for blocking and shoving a police officer who tried to enter his home without a warrant after his wife called 911 during an argument. The man was shocked with a stun gun and arrested. His wife told officers he hadn't hit her.

The court's 3-2 ruling brought Indiana law in line with most other states. But about 250 people attended a Statehouse rally against the decision, contending it infringed on their constitutional rights and contradicted centuries of common law precedent regarding homeowners' rights and the limits of police power.

Lt. Mark Carnell, an Indiana State Police attorney, told the committee that officers who are acting outside their authority already don't have the protection of the law.

"Our concern is that we will end up with people making split-second decisions — and law enforcement officers and citizens getting killed or hurt badly," Carnell said.

The Senate committee removed a provision specifically allowing police entry while investigating suspected domestic violence. Young proposed that change, saying another provision allowed officers to enter a home if they saw that someone was injured or believed a person was in danger.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

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