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Indiana Senate backs bill on right to resist police

January 23, 2012

The Indiana Senate on Monday approved by a wide margin a proposal that gives residents limited rights to resist police officers trying to enter their homes.

The Senate voted 45-5 to back the bill that follows a public uproar after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in May that residents could not use force to resist police officers even during an illegal entry.

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.

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.

Sponsor Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said the bill aims to draw a "bright line" on what residents and police officers can do.

"This Supreme Court ruling is a ruling that defended the government against its citizens," Young told the Senate. "We're attempting to find common ground here in which we balance our citizens' rights to protect themselves" with the safety of police officers.

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.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the bill seemed to encourage violence against officers rather than using the courts to contest illegal police actions.

The proposal now moves to the House for consideration.

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