Indiana General Assembly Passes Law Designed to Renew Right of Self-Defense

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, the issue of “self-defense” is now capturing nationwide attention. However, it was already a fairly hot topic in the Indiana legal community following the 2011 case of Barnes v. State. In that case, the Indiana Supreme Court held that citizens no longer have a right to reasonably resist unlawful attempts by police officers to enter homes. (Read more here in articles by Attorney Christopher Buckley.) The decision outraged many in the legal community and apparently the Indiana General Assembly as well.

On March 20th, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a new bill into law which restores the right to use reasonable force against a public servant when such 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.

Senate Enrolled Act 01 will go into effect on July 1, 2012. The bill, which was co-sponsored by State Senator Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, does provide some exceptions. For example, a person is not allowed to use force when the person is escaping following commission of a crime or when the person acts as the initial aggressor. Overall though, the bill certainly should help restore the common law right of self-defense in Indiana. (Read a more detailed summary of the new law here or see the bill in its entirety.)