Jacob Sullum

The case involved Richard Barnes, whose wife called 911 in November 2007 to report that he was throwing things around their apartment. When police encountered Barnes outside, he shouted that they were not needed because he was in the process of moving out. His wife emerged, threw a duffle bag in his direction and told him to collect the rest of his belongings. When two officers tried to follow the couple back into the apartment, Barnes blocked the way, while his wife said "don't do this" and "just let them in." Barnes shoved one officer against a wall, and a scuffle ensued.

After he was convicted of battery on a police officer, resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct, Barnes appealed, arguing that the jury should have been instructed about "the right of a citizen to reasonably resist unlawful entry into the citizen's home." The Indiana Supreme Court could have ruled that the officers' entry into the apartment was lawful given the possibility of violence, especially since Barnes' wife had called 911 and arguably invited them in. The majority suggested as much but inexplicably decided a far broader question. "Because we decline to recognize the right to reasonably resist an unlawful police entry," the court said, "we need not decide the legality of the officers' entry into Barnes's apartment."

This backward approach suggests the justices were eager to repudiate a straightforward extension of self-defense that struck them as an outmoded impediment to law enforcement. Like the "sniff, knock, listen and kick" rule endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision illustrates the steady erosion of security in the name of security, even in the setting where our right to be left alone is supposed to be strongest.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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