Indiana court upholds ruling on police entry

September 21, 2011

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(AP/Darron Cummings)
The Indiana high court's original ruling, upheld Tuesday, had sparked demonstrations such as this one in May.

The Indiana Supreme Court is upholding a ruling that Hoosiers cannot resist police officers who enter their homes without warrants.

The original case goes back to 2007, when a Southern Indiana woman called officers about a domestic dispute. Her husband refused to let police enter their home, but they did anyway.

In May the state’s highest court ruled the police did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful entry. The ruling sparked immediate outrage: The court received threats, citizens held demonstrations and Hoosier lawmakers asked the court to reconsider its decision.

But in a ruling Tuesday, the justices held firm.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller laid out the effects of the court’s latest decision.

“The Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling [Tuesday] means that individuals still have the common law right of reasonable resistance to an unlawful entry, though there is never justification for committing battery against a police officer. In volatile domestic violence situations, police have the right to enter a home to ensure safety of others, but today’s ruling also means the individual has the right to stand against his locked door to protect his home and communicate with police outside without a physical altercation,” Zoeller said. “While the Legislature considers whether to revise the existing statute, we respect the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling, which underscores that the individual’s constitutional right remains in force.”

The court’s majority argued that the ruling does nothing more than bring Indiana law into stride with other states and that the argument that "a man's home is his castle" is not a justifiable defense of attacking a police officer.

The reference to force being used against an officer comes from the particulars of the original case, which began with the arrest of Richard Barnes in Evansville. In late 2007 Evansville police tried to enter Barnes’ home after being called to quell a domestic disturbance between Barnes and his wife.

According to court records, Barnes told officers that they were not needed. Barnes and his wife tried heading back to their apartment. Police followed and then asked to be allowed inside. Barnes refused and shoved an officer. The officer entered anyway and subdued Barnes. Police eventually charged Barnes and a court convicted him on a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld Barnes’ conviction in Tuesday's ruling.

Barnes’ attorney, Erin Berger, has not said if she plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.