Saturday, May 14, 2011

Resistance is Futile

The below is re-posted from the Simple Justice Blog:

Resistance is Futile

In the law, there have been certain very specific places which no court, no judge, is bold enough to breech. The front door of a person's home, his castle, was one such place. No more.

The Indiana Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, has taken the state of law since the King John's signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and decide that it no longer serves our "modern" world. In Barnes v. State, the court held that the sanctity of our homes is a thing of the past.
We believe . . . that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Nowadays, an aggrieved arrestee has means unavailable at common law for redress against unlawful police action. E.g., Warner, supra, at 330 (citing the dangers of arrest at common law—indefinite detention, lack of bail, disease-infested prisons, physical torture—as reasons for recognizing the right to resist); State v. Hobson, 577 N.W.2d 825, 835–36 (Wis. 1998) (citing the following modern developments: (1) bail, (2) prompt arraignment and determination of probable cause, (3) the exclusionary rule, (4) police department internal review and disciplinary procedure, and (5) civil remedies). 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— as evident by the facts of this instant case. E.g., Hobson, 577 N.W.2d at 836 (“But in arrest situations that are often ripe for rapid escalation, one‘s 'measured‘ response may fast become excessive.”).

The case involved a domestic dispute, where the defendant was confronted by police outside his home. There was no basis to arrest him, any more than there is a basis to arrest a man any time he and his wife have an argument, and so the defendant went inside. He refused the police entry, and when they forced their way in, pushed an officer up against a wall. For that, he was charged with misdemeanor battery.

In defense to the charge, the defendant relied on his right to resist an illegal entry into his home, whether by police or anyone else. But the the entry was by police, officers of the state, made it of particular significance. This was the core evil against which the Fourth Amendment protects. Note the use of the past tense.

But this has now been declared archaic, a relic of a past age, of which modern man, and courts, no longer have need. The court says we have other, better, options than to resist: the exclusionary rule, internal police department review and disciplinary procedures and civil remedies. Perhaps this is a penumbra of the "new professionalism" we've heard so much about, and have yet to enjoy for ourselves.

The gist of the court's ruling, however, is that they're doing this for us, for the children, to safeguard us from violence. Resisting the police escalates violence, and enhances the likelihood that someone will be hurt. They just don't want us to get hurt, and if the front door to our homes is the cost of our safety, then so be it. As the court tangentially notes, it's not like law prohibiting police entry actually stops the police from doing as they please, so better to eliminate the law than mandate police adherence.

There is no line more fundamental than that running across our threshold. Courts have been trying to erase if for a long time, bit by bit. The Indiana Supreme Court seizes upon these "exceptions" to conclude that the fundamental rule has been eroding for so long as to make this final step, the erasure of the rule altogether, merely the obvious last slide down the slope.
Further, we note that a warrant is not necessary for every entry into a home. For example, officers may enter the home if they are in “hot pursuit” of the arrestee or if exigent circumstances justified the entry. E.g., United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 42–43 (1976) (holding that retreat into a defendant‘s house could not thwart an otherwise proper arrest made in the course of a ?hot pursuit?); Holder v. State, 847 N.E.2d 930, 938 (Ind. 2006) (“Possible imminent destruction of evidence is one exigent circumstance that may justify a warrantless entry into a home if the fear on the part of the police that the evidence was immediately about to be destroyed is objectively reasonable.”). Even with a warrant, officers may have acted in good faith in entering a home, only to find later that their entry was in error. E.g., Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1, 11 (1994); United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922–25 (1984). In these situations, we find it unwise to allow a homeowner to adjudge the legality of police conduct in the heat of the moment.

While it's easy to argue slippery slope in opposition to the creation of any particular exception to a rule, that doesn't mean it isn't accurate and doesn't happen. This is the proof.

The dissent, by definition, disagrees.

[T]he common law rule supporting a citizen‘s right to resist unlawful entry into her home rests on . . . 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.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 585 (1980). 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 Miller v. United States, 357 U.S. 301, 313–14 (1958) the United States Supreme Court held that it was unlawful to arrest the defendant on criminal charges when a warrantless arrest was conducted by police officers breaking and entering the defendant‘s apartment without expressly announcing the purpose of their presence or demanding admission. In recounting the historical perspective for its holding the Court quoted eighteenth century remarks attributed to William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, on the occasion of a debate in Parliament:
The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter; the rain may enter; but the King of England cannot enter – all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!
Id. at 307. The same is no less true today and applies equally to forces of the State.
Defiance will no longer be tolerated in Indiana, for our own safety and because we didn't challenge the small slides down the hill along the way. Now that we're at the bottom, should we be surprised?


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