The erosion of people’s rights by the government continues at breakneck speed, and virtually unopposed. A ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court from last week should have been a grave cause for concern to any Americans who still value their remaining liberties. But of course very few noticed, or bothered to pay attention.
In Barnes v. State of Indiana, the Supreme Court held that, quoting Justice Steven David, “there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers”.
In a 3-2 decision the SC basically ruled that police can forcefully enter a Hoosier’s (resident of Indiana) home without a warrant, without probable cause, and that a person confronted with such an illegal police assault has no right to resist.
“A right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.” (Justice David for the majority.)
So the Indiana SC, blaming “escalation of violence” on citizens who defend themselves from unlawful activity, completely disregarded people’s Fourth Amendment rights in order to prevent harm being done to illegal intruders (in this case government thugs).
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
— 4th Amendment to the US Constitution
Well, apparently, the “modern Fourth Amendment” does not apply when it comes to police acting unlawfully.
Justice Robert Rucker and Justice Brent Dickson dissented from the ruling stating it ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment:
“The common law rule supporting a citizen‘s right to resist unlawful entry into her home rests on a very different ground, namely, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Indeed, the physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed… In my view it is breathtaking that the majority deems it appropriate or even necessary to erode this constitutional protection based on a rationale addressing much different policy considerations. There is simply no reason to abrogate the common law right of a citizen to resist the unlawful police entry into his or her home.”
“In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally – that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances. And that their sole remedy is to seek refuge in the civil arena. I disagree and therefore respectfully dissent”, said Rucker.
The Indiana case involved an argument between a husband and wife outside their home. Upon arrival of the police the couple went inside and shut the door on the officer who tried to follow. When the officer forced his way inside, the husband shoved him against a wall in defense of his property. He was shocked with a stun gun, arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement and battery on a police officer.
In court the defense intended to argue that a citizen had the right to resist unlawful entry into his home. The judge refused to let the defendant make that argument to the jury, denying him his defense, and the man was convicted. The case was appealed all the way up to the Indiana Supreme Court.
That’s when things took a bizarre turn…
The SC deemed that the police officers entered the Barnes home illegally. The Justices also agreed that one’s right to resist illegal entry had existed since the Magna Carta (1215). And yet, in what amounts to eliminating this ancient legal right, the Court stated that when a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, the homeowner is not allowed to do anything to block such entry.
The Indiana SC essentially gave the police free reign to do whatever they like, including breaking the law. Willful and illegal police action now trumps citizens’ rights.
But not to worry; as Justice David noted, a person arrested following an unlawful entry by the police could still be released on bail and would have plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.
Now, isn’t that comforting? After the harm has been done, all you can do is try to argue in court that your rights were violated. And hope & pray for an enlightened judge to vindicate your rights against the police or other government agents (not to mention dismiss any unrelated incriminating evidence that such unlawful entry might have produced). Good luck with that, judging by the Indiana ruling.
Of course there are plenty of other problems with this concept. Criminals have sometimes impersonated police officers during home invasions. The SC has now taken away any legitimate right to self-defense in such situations.
All this may be an indication of what’s yet to come.
First it’s the police and agents of the government who get to invade your home for any reason or no reason at all. Next your right to self-defense of person and property will be stripped away entirely (look at the UK and much of Europe, where the law now firmly stands on the side of the criminal and self-defense is punished with a jail sentence).
Although the Barnes case has the most worrying implications, it’s not the first ruling against once sacred citizens’ rights.
Just a few days ago the US Supreme Court, reversing a Kentucky SC decision, ruled 8-1 that police can forcefully enter a home without a warrant if they believe to smell marijuana, knock, and then hear (what they think is) evidence being destroyed.
Justice Ruth Ginsburg dissented, saying: “The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”
She asked, “How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?”
In another case this month (Lacey v. State of Indiana) Indiana SC Justices ruled that police serving a warrant can enter a home without knocking. (Before police serving a warrant had to obtain a judge’s permission to enter without knocking.)
Much like the UK and a few other so-called “free” countries, the US is getting ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state. The government and its agents have full authority to violate a person’s privacy and seize their property; the victim having little recourse to a fair and impartial court.
The Fourth Amendment and the right to remain free from illegal search and seizure of person and property have long been deemed irrelevant and inconvenient. Americans have been stripped of any rights at airports, border checkpoints, and increasingly at train stations, bus terminals and so on. (And now also in their own homes.)
The abuses of government power continue to grow, gradually training the masses to accept a police state. You are subjected to wholesale searches at airports, including naked scanners and intrusive pat downs of men, women and children that would be considered a criminal act if committed by anyone but government officials. Try to resist the molestation and you’ll be fined and thrown in jail. (A new bill is to give TSA similar sweeping powers over “surface transportation” including train stations and bus terminals. Undoubtedly shopping malls and other places will soon follow.)
Not only can government agents search you virtually any time and under any excuse (and use whatever they may find against you), they are also allowed to spy on your communication and keep track of everything you do.
How long before other basic rights such as freedom of speech (or whatever still remains of it), assembly, possession of guns, are abolished too? (Of course always for the greater good and your own security and protection!)
The Constitution no longer has any force of law. Politicians, government officials and judges interpret the laws as to fit their desired outcomes. Brave men have, over centuries, died for these ideals and freedoms. Today everyone happily endures even the most grotesque overstepping of government. We are on a fast track back to tyranny and, unlike our ancestors, don’t even seem to notice, or care.
Americans, just as Europeans before them (and similarly citizens of any totalitarian states of the past) have surrendered their liberty and freedom without batting an eyelid, buying the government’s excuse of having to give up their rights in exchange for safety. We don’t need any terrorists to destroy our freedom and way of life; we have relinquished them voluntarily.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
There has scarcely been a time when Benjamin Franklin’s words rang truer than today.