Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wronging a Right

The Indiana legislature is in the process of passing a bill that would give homeowners the right to defend their homes and persons against illegal entry by the police, in some circumstances.

This is in response to the Indiana Supreme Court ruling last year (stories here, here, and here) that homeowners and others have no right of such defense. The bottom line from the ruling is this statement from the Court:
"We hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers."

That ruling related to the case of Richard Barnes, who was involved in a dispute with his wife as he moved out. He had been outside and had gone into his apartment, following his wife; he then turned and blocked the doorway, informing the police officers who were on his heels that they could not enter. The police entered anyway, and when he resisted, tasered, choked, and then arrested him.

Important note
You cannot forcibly prevent an officer from entering. In fact, you can't even touch the officer. But you should still tell them, "You do not have my permission to enter." If you agree verbally to allow them to enter, you have waived your Fourth Amendment Rights. You can stand aside in the face of their force, but insist that you are not giving (have not given) them permission to enter.
So: Right or wrong, if an officer wants into your house, get out of the way (or be tasered, choked, pepper-sprayed, clubbed by baton, shot and/or arrested). Like Barnes, be sent to prison for battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

So much for the Fourth Amendment.

Now, the legislature hopes to correct that by allowing people what to the police officers? Shoot at them? Batter them?

But only, no doubt, if you're a legal expert who can can be absolutely certain of proving the officer was in the wrong.


They are doing it wrong.

See, what should have happened to Barnes is exactly what did happen. He resisted, he battered, he goes to prison. Resisting or attacking an officer is stupid, no matter what the circumstances.

But if there were any real respect for our Rights in this country, and if the officer was in the wrong, he would also be in prison, for violating Barnes' Civil Rights by entering his home illegally.

See, we play a lot at the game of civil court. If your rights are violated, the solution de jour is to sue. Then the lawyers get involved, and this is the way it goes:
  1. You settle. If you don't, the judge gets annoyed because you are wasting the court's time; and he finds a way to kill your case.
  2. The settlement will include a pittance that the authorities will have to pay you for violating your rights. As small as they can make the pittance.
  3. The settlement will also include a statement that the authorities, "Admit no wrongdoing."
  4. The settlement will be sealed: Strictly between you and the government, so no one else gets to see the details. Except, of course, that the amount of the pittance will be mentioned.
  5. Then the authorities will hold a press conference to bemoan our litigious society, where everyone sues, "So they can get rich at the taxpayers' expense."
  6. Then the authorities will go right on doing what they always did. No repentance, no change in behavior; more Rights will be tromped.

That's not a penalty, because it's just taxpayer money: It's not the officer's money and it's not the prosecutor's money (or the President's). Meaningless to them as a means of punishment; and besides, it's your fault because you were the one who sued.

Until there are actual penalties for violation of civil Rights, it will stay this way. To make our Rights secure, we have to start sending officers to prison when they knowingly violate our Rights. We have to start sending elected authorities to prison for breach of Constitutional oath of office, when they support violation of our Rights.

It is only then that the authorities will actually respect our Rights.

Update 04/28/2011
The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled the opposite.

Update 06/16/2012
The Indiana legislature has passed the law allowing citizens to claim self defense against the police. I agree with the article: I think it's just a matter of time before a police officer is killed. Sigh.

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