January 19, 2012

Indiana Senate committee OKs illegal entry bill

1-19-2012 Indiana:

Sen. Mike Young removes line from amendment

INDIANAPOLIS — — After heated debate, an Indiana Senate committee approved a measure Tuesday that defines when residents can use force to prevent a police officer from entering their homes, but not before amending the bill.

The author of Senate Bill 1, Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, introduced the bill as a response to the Indiana Supreme Court's Barnes v. State decision, which said homeowners could not resist law enforcement officials' attempts to enter their homes.

Young presented an amendment that removed a line from the bill. The line said an officer may enter a home if there is "an investigation of suspected domestic or family violence."

"It appears that language could be so broad, that we allow police officers really any reason to come into our homes by having this suspicion of domestic violence," Young said.

Young said the line directly after it, "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," is sufficient.

"The language was to try and draw a bright line," Young said. "So that whether you are a citizen or a law enforcement officer, we can tell what is a lawful entry and what is an unlawful entry."

The court case stemmed from a situation in Evansville, where police officers responded to a call involving a domestic disturbance.

Officers found Richard Barnes, 57, (not Richard Barnes Jr., 38, who was sentenced to prison in 2010 in an unrelated case, or the Rev. Richard Barnes of Evansville) arguing with his wife in the parking lot outside of their apartment. When Barnes walked back into his apartment, an officer tried to follow him inside.

Barnes resisted, officers arrested him, and Barnes filed suit.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled against Barnes and said the General Assembly, not the courts, should decide what legal defenses should exist for violent acts against officers.

"Our concerns are that this bill as written, it will invite individuals to make split-second decisions on the legality of police action," said Lt. Mark Carnell of the Indiana State Police. "These are issues that are decided by judges, juries and attorneys."

Carnell said the state police do not want to see residents or officers being injured or killed because of heat-of-the-moment decisions.

"Whether we pass any law or not, at that 3 a.m. knockdown when a guy comes through your bedroom door, you're going to have to make a decision right then," said Chairman Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. "That's human nature."

The bill and the amendment both passed, 8-0. ..Source.. by Shelby Salazar

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