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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Did Indiana Legalize Unwarranted Entry?

No, no they did not.

Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

The key word here is resist. An illegal entry is still an illegal entry, and any results of that illegal entry would be suppressed in court, while the police and municipality would be liable civilly for the infraction. Resisting is likely to lead to dead or injured homeowners or police officers, and that's the point of the ruling; there are other remedies.

However, the case at hand is a bit more complex. From the ruling:

On November 18, 2007, Richard Barnes argued with his wife Mary Barnes as he was moving out of their apartment. During the argument, Mary tried to call her sister but Barnes grabbed the phone from her hand and threw it against the wall. Mary called 911 from her cell phone and informed the dispatcher that Barnes was throwing things around the apartment but that he had not struck her. The 911 dispatch went out as a ―domestic violence in progress.‖

In Pennsylvania, that might be enough right there to get Barnes arrested for domestic violence. No idea about Indiana though. More:

Officer Lenny Reed, the first responder, saw a man leaving an apartment with a bag and began questioning him in the parking lot. Upon identifying the man as Barnes, Reed informed him that officers were responding to a 911 call. Barnes responded that he was getting his things and leaving and that Reed was not needed. Barnes had raised his voice and yelled at Reed, prompting stares from others outside and several warnings from Reed.
Officer Jason Henry arrived on the scene and observed that Barnes was ―very agitated and was yelling.‖ Barnes ―continued to yell, loudly‖ and did not lower his voice until Reed warned that he would be arrested for disorderly conduct. Barnes retorted, ―if you lock me up for Disorderly Conduct, you‘re going to be sitting right next to me in a jail cell.‖ Mary came onto the parking lot, threw a black duffle bag in Barnes‘s direction, told him to take the rest of his stuff, and returned to the apartment. Reed and Henry followed Barnes back to the apartment. Mary entered the apartment, followed by Barnes, who then turned around and blocked the doorway. Barnes told the officers that they could not enter the apartment and denied Reed‘s requests to enter and investigate. Mary did not explicitly invite the officers in, but she told Barnes several times, ―don‘t do this‖ and ―just let them in.‖

So Barnes is also in the process of moving out. That raises the issue if he even has the right to contest entrance to the apartment, as his wife, who is remaining with the apartment, seems to differ with him about letting the police in.

Barnes was charged with Class A misdemeanor battery on a police officer, Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and Class A misdemeanor interference with the reporting of a crime. Before the trial, Barnes tendered a jury instruction on the right of a citizen to reasonably resist unlawful entry into the citizen‘s home. The trial court refused Barnes‘s instruction and did not otherwise instruct the jury as to the right to reasonably resist. The jury found Barnes guilty of battery on a police officer, resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct.
Barnes appealed, challenging the trial court‘s refusal to give his tendered jury instruction

The only person alleging that the entry was illegal was Barnes. While his jury instruction wasn't allowed, the jury was privy to the details of the incident, and found Barnes guilty on all counts. The jury had no issue with police entering the apartment. It looks, despite Barnes arguments, that the entry wasn't illegal at all. So again, no the court did not legalize unwarranted, illegal entry by the government.

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