At least twenty states have a Castle Doctrine Law of some kind on their books. Most of these laws specify that an individual may use whatever means is considered justifiable to protect themselves and their homes, cars and work place from unlawful attacks or intrusions. In other words, if anyone enters your home without your consent, you are legally allowed to defend yourself from that person up to and including deadly force if necessary.
In 2011, the Indiana State Supreme Court said that the Castle Doctrine does not apply to law enforcement agents who may unlawfully enter someone’s private property. In other words, if a police officer broke down your door without a warrant and threatened you, you have no legal right to defend yourself from their attack.
Many people in Indiana believed that the state’s Supreme Court ruling protected law enforcement from committing unlawful search and seizure. In response to the court’s decision, Indiana State Senator Michael Young introduced Senate Bill 1 to the state legislature to restore the original intent of the Castle Doctrine. A summary of SB1 reads,
“Specifies that a person may use reasonable force against any other person in certain circumstances. Provides that a person is justified in using reasonable force against a public servant if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to: (1) protect the person or a third person from unlawful force; (2) prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful entry into the person’s dwelling; or (3) prevent or terminate the public servant’s criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession. Specifies that a person is not justified in using force against a public servant if: (1) the person is committing or is escaping after the commission of a crime; (2) the person provokes action by the public servant with intent to injure the public servant; (3) the person has entered into combat with the public servant or is the initial aggressor; or (4) the person reasonably believes the public servant is acting lawfully or is engaged in the lawful execution of the public servant’s official duties. Provides that a person is not justified in using deadly force against a public servant whom the person knows or reasonably should know is a public servant unless: (1) the person reasonably believes that the public servant is acting unlawfully or is not engaged in the execution of the public servant’s official duties; and (2) the force is reasonably necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person.”
In other words, a person would have the right to defend themselves from unlawful entry of their property by any public servant including police. Under this definition, someone like Linda Griego would have had all the legal authority to resist and defend herself and her son when police illegally entered her home without a warrant.
SB1 was passed by the state legislature and was recently signed into law by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Most police departments throughout the state believe that this new law will make their job more dangerous than it already is. They claim that there will be instances when police have a warrant that the homeowner will still feel threatened and start shooting at them, claiming the Castle Doctrine and SB1 as their defense.
The same concern is being expressed with traffic stops. The Castle Doctrine also protects someone in their car from unlawful entry, search and seizure. SB1 clarifies that unless a law enforcement officer has legal ground to search your car or to remove you from the car, that you will have legal grounds to protect yourself in manner fitting the situation. However, officers often use probable cause to search a motor vehicle and this may be misunderstood by the person in the car.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about Indiana’s SB1 and believe it is a Catch 22 piece of legislation. Yes, I do believe a person has the legal right to protect themselves and their property from illegal search and seizure even from law enforcement. However, having close friends and family in law enforcement, I can see how this new bill will only add to the danger of their jobs. You and I both know that someone is going to shoot a police officer and then claim they felt that their personal safety was being threatened, especially when it is based upon their perception and not necessary what is really happening.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Indiana police officers drawing their guns every time they approach a vehicle or someone’s front door. But then, someone will claim they felt threatened by the gun being pulled and so shot in defense before knowing the circumstances.
All I do know is that I would not want to be a law enforcement officer in Indiana. I also know that if anyone enters my house illegally, regardless of whom they are, that I will defend my wife, my person and my property by whatever means is necessary.