SB 1 is a response to an activist court decision (Barnes v. State) that overturned hundreds of years of common law in Indiana, and that also ignored and undercut the state’s 2006 “Castle Doctrine” statute. SB 1 does not authorize any use of force against Indiana police officers except in the rare cases in which it was already authorized before that 2011 ruling.
Case Background Richard Barnes was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer after he argued and struggled with police officers to prevent them from entering his home without his or his wife’s consent, without a warrant, and without any exigent circumstances that would justify a warrantless entry.
At Barnes‟ trial, his attorney asked for a jury instruction stating that a citizen has the right to “reasonably resist the unlawful entry” of his home by arresting officers. (Emphasis added.) The trial judge refused to give this instruction. Barnes was convicted, and appealed.
A unanimous panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the requested jury instruction was “a correct statement of the law.” This didn’t meant that Barnes‟ resistance was justified—only that Barnes was entitled to a new trial, at which the jury would have the opportunity to decide whether his resistance was reasonable. If not, he could be convicted.
The state then appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, which recognized in a 3-2 decision that the Court of Appeals had correctly followed its own precedents, but then asked “whether Indiana should recognize the common-law right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.” (Notably, the state didn’t ask the court to address the question so broadly; prosecutors argued only that battery on an officer is not a reasonable use of force when resisting an unlawful entry.)
The court noted that the right to resist unlawful police action in general had existed for hundreds of years, but that the right to resist unlawful arrest had been abolished in a number of states. However, lower Indiana courts had continued to recognize a right too resist unlawful entry into the home based on the “heightened expectation of privacy” that exists there.
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