The Indiana Supreme Court's 3-2 ruling in the Barnes v. Indiana case last week cries out for clarification from the U.S. Supreme Court. The nays have it right.
The Barnes case involves a domestic violence complaint. The facts are tangled, with Richard Barnes, the defendant, trying to prevent police from entering his home without a warrant while his wife urges him to let the officer in. Did the officer have permission to enter or did he not? The two adult occupants seemed to have conflicting views, and don't forget the officer arrived in response to a 911 call.
But the Indiana Supreme Court went way beyond the facts of this case.
"We hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers," states the majority opinion, written by Justice Steven David
Perhaps you remember from civics class that the Magna Carta, signed in England in 1215, is the foundation of common law, including civil rights. The Magna Carta inspired the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which deals with government searches and seizures.
"We believe, however, that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," the court said.
"In sum, we hold that (in) Indiana the right to reasonably resist an unlawful police entry into a home is no longer recognized under Indiana law," the majority opinion said.
Tell that to the person whose home is being invaded.
The ruling in Barnes v. Indiana sets up a potential nightmare. Hoosier homeowners are allowed to consider their home as their castle and to defend it by shooting armed intruders. But with police allowed to enter a home without knocking, even without a warrant, even unlawfully, how will the homeowner know whether he's defending himself against criminal intruders or government intruders?
The Indiana Supreme Court went too far in its ruling last Thursday. Justices Robert Rucker, a Gary native, and Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, were wise to dissent.
"There is simply no reason to abrogate the common law right of a citizen to resist the unlawful police entry into his or her home," Rucker wrote in his dissent.
Dickson wrote, "In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally -- that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances. And that their sole remedy is to seek refuge in the civil arena."
The Fourth Amendment remains the Fourth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court needs to sort this one out to determine when the Fourth Amendment and the Magna Carta common law rights protecting citizens are to be compromised.