Pulaski County Sheriff Discusses Police Entry Law

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Governor Mitch Daniels recently signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 1 which specifies that a person may use reasonable force against any other person in certain circumstances, including police officers.

You may prevent or terminate an officer’s unlawful entry into your home or the officer’s criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession. Pulaski County Sheriff Michael Gayer says there are a few instances were police entry is justified.

“A police officer can only enter your home if he has the consent of the homeowner that they can come into the property,” explained Sheriff Gayer. “Secondly, he has probable cause that he’s taken to a judge and a search warrant has been issued to go into the property. There is also a thing such as exigent circumstances and that is if we drive by your house and we see flames coming out, we have a right to go in and see if there’s anybody in need of rescue. We can also enter if it’s a fresh pursuit. If we pursue a person in a vehicle and that person jumps out of the car and runs into your house, we have a right to follow him right into the house. It’s called a fresh pursuit law.”

Sheriff Gayer says police officers are nervous about this piece of legislation.

“We are afraid that people will think that police officers have a target on their back now and they can start resisting police officers if they feel they’re acting inappropriately.”

He gives us an example.

“Say we get a call of a peeping tom or a suspicious person at your neighbor’s house and we respond – during the course of our investigation, we go onto your property to make sure that he didn’t escape onto your property. You look out the window and you see a police officer with a flashlight looking into your pole barn, or doing something that you think is odd, does that give you the right to stick a gun out the window and shoot the police officer because you think he’s acting inappropriately? You know that you haven’t done anything wrong, you have no illegal drugs in the house or no illegal activity going on on your property so why is this police officer suddenly peering into your garage or your barn? That’s the greatest fear that we have is people misinterpreting the law.”

If an officer is operating out of the scope of his duties, it needs to be reported.

“There are measures already in place if a police officer acts inappropriately or goes beyond the scope of his duties or the law. There’s Hearing Boards, Internal Affairs investigations, there are torte claims that can be filed – there’s other means in order to discipline that officer.”

For more information on this bill, go to this website and search for SEA 1.