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Justices: Arrest was valid

January 1, 2008
The Indiana Supreme Court has reversed a Marion County judge's ruling that officers from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department don't have arresting authority because they didn't take an official oath following a merger.

A unanimous ruling came today in State v. Cheryl Oddi-Smith, 49S00-0710-CR-396, which stems from Marion Superior Judge Rueben Hill's decision involving a three-car accident and subsequent drunk driving arrest a year ago. He ruled that Oddi-Smith's arrest was illegal because the arresting officer was not sworn in after the Jan. 1 merger between the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department. Only top officials and a few officers took the oath following the merger.

Judge Hill of Criminal Court 18 - himself a former Indiana State Police trooper - noted the main legal issue is whether this merger created an entirely new police agency, and if so then all officers would need to be sworn in again.

The state's high court granted an emergency transfer to bypass the Indiana Court of Appeals because of the public importance of the case, and heard arguments in November.

In its ruling today, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote that all sworn officers of the IPD or MCSD at the time of consolidation satisfied the oath requirement.

"We think it sufficient grounds to say that the arresting officer was recruited, trained, and sworn as an IPD officer and that he took all that with him to the IMPD," the chief justice wrote in the six page ruling.

Chief Justice Shepard also noted that other grounds could exist for which Oddi-Smith's arrest was valid, such as the "de facto officer" doctrine. Rationale was that the internal order relied on by the defense applied to personnel new to law enforcement, and did not require a second oath for those already sworn in before consolidation.

This decision reverses the trial court's suppression and dismissal, and remands it for further proceedings on the merits of the charges against Oddi-Smith.
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