INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The Indiana Supreme Court has taken a second look at a controversial opinion. It surrounds this question: Can police come into your home uninvited?
The answer is complicated. The ruling finds that an Evansville homeowner who tried to stop a police officer was wrong. His conviction is upheld.
But, in it, the justices also recognize the constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure. The 4-1 ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court says that state lawmakers should help determine when a homeowner can resist police attempts to enter a home.
"They indicate to me that they can't make all the fixes," says State Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford), "and that they're looking to us to make some of the fixes as well."
It all started with a May ruling that prompted national headlines because it suggested that it was unlawful to resist the police when they seek to enter a home. Hearings began in the General Assembly with more than one taxpayer declaring his or her home a castle. "The rights of the protected home is foremost," said one, "the most important thing."
And police insisted that they enter only if someone is in danger. "We are not trying to do this," state trooper Bill Carrell told lawmakers.
The controversy led to threats being directed at the Supreme Court. The new ruling brings with it an explanation that eliminates a feared conflict with federal constitutional rights, but lawmakers are sure to pursue efforts to clarify the situation.
"We're going to have to carefully study what should we do, if anything," says State Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson,) "so that people don't get hurt." And that means both homeowners and the police.
This case is known as Barnes v. State of Indiana and it began with relatively minor charges of battery and resisting arrest against Richard Barnes. He's the loser. But his legal battle has produced a bigger debate over constitutional rights and police powers that will continue indefinitely.
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