[r31] Restoring the Rights of Hoosiers (2/27/2012)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Start Date: 2/27/2012
End Date: 2/27/2012

An issue that has been widely discussed this session, and one I expect to take center stage this upcoming week, is Senate Bill 1 dealing with the Barnes vs. State decision. Many of you may not recall all the events surrounding the case, but it caused and is still causing major headlines

Barnes’ wife called 911 because of an altercation they were having. Officers came to the scene and Barnes began yelling. His wife returned to the apartment and Barnes followed her, but refused to let officers enter the residence. An officer tried to enter the home and Barnes shoved the officer against the wall. He was then arrested and charged with, among other things, battery on a law enforcement officer.

He took his case to trial and was convicted. He appealed the decision based on a theory that the court should have allowed him to offer a jury instruction telling the jury that he had a right to reasonably resist an unlawful entry into his home.

The case ultimately reached the Indiana Supreme Court, who agreed with the trial court’s refusal to offer the jury instruction.

Under Senate Bill 1, if any person—regardless of whether or not they are law enforcement officer—is acting unlawfully against another person, then that person has the right to defend him or herself. It provides a preamble to the self‚Äźdefense law indicating the legislature’s intent that Hoosiers should be secure in their home against unlawful intrusions, and that they have the right to defend themselves from physical harm and crime.

In-other-words, it justifies a person in using reasonable force against a law enforcement officer if the person reasonably believes it is necessary to protect themselves against unlawful force or entry.

Senate Bill 1 in no way provides individuals with an additional right to attack or use force against law enforcement. It simply puts Indiana back to where our law stood prior to the Barnes vs. State decision, while also adding protection for law enforcement when deadly force is involved.

The legislation also states that a person is not justified in using deadly force against a law enforcement officer unless that person believes that an officer is acting unlawfully or the person wants to prevent serious bodily injuries. 

Again, this issue has received a lot of attention and I expect it to continue, and rightfully so. Any issues dealing with law enforcement should be well thought out and widely discussed. As a former sheriff, I look forward to contributing what I can to the discussion and being a part of the debate that will take place on the floor this week.