Restoring the Right of Self-Defense Is Not a License to Kill Cops

Former Reason writer Radley Balko notes that various news outlets are misrepresenting recent changes to Indiana's self-defense law as a license to kill cops. As Balko explains, the legislation, which Gov. Mitch Daniels signed last week, merely restores a common-law right that residents of the state had until last year, when the Indiana Supreme Court declared "there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers." As I pointed out at the time, that conclusion was completely unnecessary for resolving the case, which involved a domestic dispute where a woman called 911. She wanted the police to enter the apartment she shared with her husband, while he tried to stop them. Even if the officers did not have a resident's consent, the situation was such that the court could have concluded "exigent circumstances" justified their entry. Instead the court decided to nullify a principle of common law that is centuries old and arguably dates back to the Magna Carta because it considered this right of self-defense outmoded and apt to encourage violence.

As a result of that decision, the only option for someone confronted by a police officer's unlawful violence was to sit and take it, then challenge the trespass or other crime after the fact. This legally required passiviity applied not only to cases of mistaken searches (such as the Cory Maye case in Mississippi, chronicled by Balko) but even to cases where cops knowingly break the law: A cop burglar or cop rapist could not be lawfully resisted, although he could be prosecuted after the fact.

Now that the right to reasonably resist police trespasses has been restored in Indiana, anyone using that defense still must show that his actions (including the level of force used as well as the decision to use force) were reasonable in the circumstances, as a defendant would have to show in any other case involving a claim of self-defense. As Mark Rutherford, chairman of the Indiana Public Defender Commission, tells Balko, the amendment "really just puts police officers on the same level as everyone else."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • SIV||

    Indianapolis won't be the next Mogadishu.

    Good. I didn't want to have to move to Indiana.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    +1

  • Mr. FIFY||

  • A Serious Man||

    Yeah, it is rare to see a liberal pundit that doesn't have his head shoved up his self-righteous ass.

  • Brett L||

    This guy isn't going to get invited to the new Journolist if he keeps writing columns like that.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    The article isn't bad, but the comments are Grade A Stupid.

  • ||

    Nothing wrong with shooting, as long as the right people get shot.

  • TELLMOFF||

    The founding fathers did not have a license to kill the kings hired guns.

  • Gladstone||

    Pfft...No Infernal Affairs reference?

  • A Serious Man||

    How outrageous to think that in the future Hoosier cops are going to have to make sure they pick the right house before executing a no-knock raid on some suspected drug possesser.

  • Tejicano||

    So I guess the cops still have the right to shoot your dog anyway?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Well it's not a right, but as long as they follow procedures and rely on their training (or at least say that), then yes they can shoot your dog with no repercussions.

    Other than the PTSD they will have from being threatened by your dog.

  • R C Dean||

    Of course, anyone who starts firing a gun on my property without my permission will be regarded by me as an imminent threat. Why, I'll probably poop my pants!

    Between shots.

  • ||

    Internal Affairs was a great movie. Gere as a sleazeball cop gets his comeuppance and even headbutts the shit out of Andy Garcia.

    That's entertainment!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Daniels has declared open season on police!

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Is there a bag limit? Where can I get doe (sow?) tags!

  • Daniel||

    In Indiana, you can shoot the cops but not with a rifle cartridge.

  • Brian from Texas||

    Ice-T said it best more than twenty years ago: "You think I'm going to let you just take my life or the life of someone I love just because you're a cop? NO! YOU'RE GONNA BE A DEAD COP!"

  • Agammamon||

    They should make an episode of LO SVU where Ice-T where he shoots at a suspect and the suspect returns fire. Then when they've got the suspect cuffed and Ice is all up in the perps face angry, the perp says that line to him.

    That would be an awesome episode of a schlocky melodrama.

  • sungosang||

    Yeah OK man I would have to say its about time to vclear it on up man. Wow.

    www.Anony-Web.tk

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Using "man" twice in a sentence anonbot? You are turning into a hippie, man. Why don't you go back to Woodstock, man.

  • MasterDarque||

    No more acting like armed thugs? Next the police will actually have to assist people like the peace officers they should be.

  • DJK||

    Where is dunphy?!?!? I'm missing my "cops have the right to shoot people because fuck you" rant.

  • The Fatman||

    He is a cowardly fuck-stick. He avoids these po-po related threads any more. But just in case...Die in a fire with your progeny Dunphy you jack-booted, dick-licking, tax-feeding parasitic scum.

  • El Ronbo||

    I love people that think rights trump common sense.

    You're sitting at home, with your trusty firearm within reach (because its always within reach at all times, right?).

    Five or six law enforcement officers, weapons hot, in body armor, burst through your door, thanks to the warrant having a typo giving the wrong address.

    You fire at them. Do you, in your wildest Soldier of Fortune fantasy, think you are going to take them all out? Never mind that five or six good people might die that don't need to.

    No. You might get one. Heck, you might even get two. Then you die in a hail of gunfire. But you died exercising your rights, maybe that gets you in to a special section of the cemetary.

    Or, you could put up your hands, with the driving finger extended. When its cleared up, find the scammiest ambulance chaser in your town and file a big fat lawsuit. And start shopping for a really, really nice boat.

    Let's see: dead, or rich. I know which outcome I like.

  • The Fatman||

    You sir are a fucking moron. You will probably still end up dead if they are cops. If they are just smart home invaders you will end up tortured then dead. If you have a proper home defense set up in place the scum coming through your door, cop or criminal, are in a "Kill Box" and you are in a secure "shooting position". I keep an AR next to me at all times.

  • The Fatman||

    Oh yeah, and procedures were followed so you won't get shit because of "qualified immunity". As long as the dick shit cops thought they were at the right place you are shit out of luck.

  • The Fatman||

    Just so you know, standard .223 will rip straight through soft body armor. Probably even the hard stuff at household distances.

  • Rasilio||

    There is one problem with your scenario.

    You don't know that it is 5 or 6 cops barging into your place and even though they might be screaming freeze police there is little to no guarantee you'll be able to hear them because of the noise they made breaking down your door (assuming the didn't just flash bang you)

    However imagine a slightly different scenario, you're in your bedroom asleep when you hear your door broken down, you grab your gun run down stairs and see a man with a gun so you take a shot at him, at which point he identifies himself as police and you surrender.

    well without this law you're facing attemted murder charges because you thought you were defending yourself from a home invasion

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement