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A ruling by the state of Indiana’s Supreme Court last Thursday in Barnes vs. Indiana has seemingly vacated the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment provision against unreasonable search and seizure. The case involved a domestic dispute and the Court ruled 3-2 that police can force their way into a person’s home without a warrant if they deem such entry is necessary. Writing for the majority, Justice Steven David said that “a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”
The case began as a domestic squabble between Richard Barnes and his wife Mary, who were arguing outside their apartment in Vanderburgh County. It escalated when police arrived and the couple attempted to close the door on the officer who tried to follow them into their home. When the officer forced his way in, he was pushed against the wall by Mr. Barnes. Another officer then entered the house and used a stun gun to subdue Barnes, who was then arrested. He was subsequently 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.
At the original trial, Barnes wanted the jury to be apprised of the Fourth Amendment’s limitations on police conduct regarding unlawful entry into his home. His tender instructions to the jury: “When an arrest is attempted by means of a forceful and unlawful entry into a citizen‘s home, such entry represents the use of excessive force, and the arrest cannot be considered peaceable. Therefore, a citizen has the right to reasonably resist the unlawful entry.” The court refused to allow the reading, and Barnes was convicted of battery on a police officer, resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct.
When he appealed, challenging the original court’s refusal to allow the tendering of jury instructions, a Court of Appeals ruled that the refusal was not a “harmless error.” They also ruled that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a guilty verdict against Barnes for disorderly conduct. It ordered a new trial to be held.
The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed. While noting that the right to resist unlawful police action “existed for over three hundred years” and possibly as far back as the “Magna Carta in 1215,” the Court cited numerous precedents, one of which was the contention that, in the 1920s, “legal scholarship began criticizing the [Fourth Amendment] as valuing individual liberty over physical security of the officers,” noting that such resistance in earlier times “did not involve the serious dangers it presents today.” The Supreme Court contended that the Appeals Court was wrong when “it ultimately focused on the heightened expectation of privacy in one‘s home” instead of those dangers. Furthermore, the Court ruled that the defendant had other legal remedies to address the officer’s unlawfulness, including “bail.. prompt arraignment and determination of probable cause..the exclusionary rule…police department internal review and disciplinary procedure…and civil remedies.”
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