A conviction of an Indiana man for battery on a law enforcement officer has been overturned in the states first ‘castle doctrine’ defense since codifying it into law back in 2012.
David Cupello was involved in a verbal argument with the staff members of his apartment complex on January 23, 2014.
Pike Township Constable and part time ‘courtesy officer’ Robert Webb responded to the Emerson Village Apartments in Indianapolis after police received ‘reports of intimidation.’
Court documents say Webb knocked on Cupello’s door and the man answered.
Without Cupello’s knowledge or consent, Constable Webb placed his foot just inside the threshold of the door, which opened inwards toward the interior of the apartment, court documents say.
While standing at the door, Webb questioned Cupello about the incident with Emerson Village’s staff members.
Cupello stated that he wanted to press charges, but Webb explained he could not for “just revving [his] motor,” court documents say.
At this point Cupello became upset, ended the conversation, and slammed the door to his apartment. Because Webb had placed himself inside the threshold, the door struck him in his foot, shoulder, and head, court documents say.
After the door was closed, Webb told Cupello that he was under arrest for battery on an officer.
When Cupello refused to reopen the door, Constable Webb called for a backup officer and called the Emerson Village office for a key to Cupello’s apartment, court documents say. Then, without a warrant, Webb and the backup officer unlocked Cupello’s door with the key, entered his apartment, and arrested him.
Cupello was convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer during a bench trial on May 12, 2014.
The record does not disclose whether Webb identified himself as an officer or if he was in uniform, but the Indiana appeals court found Wednesday that he was acting within his ‘official capacities’ as a Pike Township Constable and over turned Cupello’s conviction.
The court wrote, “we hold that, on the facts of this case, Cupello exercised reasonable force under Indiana Code Section 35-41-3-2(i)(2) to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry by a public servant into his home. Thus, we reverse Cupello’s conviction.”
Castle Doctrine is part of American common law derived from the English system. Under English law, a man’s home was his castle. In the home, under British rule and in present-day America, individual rights are supposed to be ‘nonnegotiable.’
In March 2012, the Indiana Legislature made it legal under certain circumstances for a citizen to use deadly force against a law enforcement officer who “unlawfully” enters their home, curtilage, or motor vehicle.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 585 (1980), that “the physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed.”