Hoosier hullabaloo: Indiana Supreme Court okays police home invasions

This month, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down two decisions that gut Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure by police.

The first, from May 10, asserts that police don’t need to knock or otherwise announce their presence before battering down the door to someone’s home so they can execute a search warrant. Fort Wayne police had a warrant to search a house for drugs and firearms. Arriving at 7:30 a.m., they used a ram to knock down the door while simultaneously shouting, “Police!” An appeals court ruled that the evidence gained should have been thrown out, but the state Supreme Court overturned that decision.

Two days later, the court issued a far more sweeping decision: “We hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.” 

Two officers responding to a report about possible domestic violence asked to enter an apartment where a 911 call had originated. The husband, who had been arguing with his wife and had allegedly been throwing things against a wall, said no. When one officer persisted, the husband shoved him. The officers then used a choke hold and a taser against the husband. He was taken to a hospital and later charged with battery on a police officer, resisting law enforcement, disorderly conduct and interference with reporting of a crime.

A court of appeals agreed with the husband that the trial court should have instructed the jury about a citizen’s right to reasonably resist unlawful entry into his home. It also found insufficient evidence for one charge and ordered a new trial on the others.

The state Supreme Court upheld his convictions in the trial court and overturned the appeals court’s ruling on the jury instruction about resistance to unlawful entry. The decision, wrote one of the dissenting justices, is “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.”

This decision sparked a protest that has turned into a drive to defeat the re-election of  the justice who wrote it.  Stay tuned for information about that.

The May 10 ruling, in Damion J. Wilkins v. State of Indiana, can be viewed at  http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/05101102bd.pdf. The May 12 ruling, Richard L. Barnes v. State of Indiana, is at  http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/05121101shd.pdf.  Here’s a video clip from Fox News about the Barnes ruling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh5q67dxhhA&feature=related, and an article about the rulings from the Northwest Indiana Times can be found at http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_ec169697-a19e-525f-a532-81b3df229697.html.

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