ILNews

Justices hear IMPD arresting-authority case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indiana's highest jurists today questioned attorneys about whether any arresting authority exists for those who didn't take an official oath for the recently created Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Justices' pointed questions go to the heart of State v. Cheryl Oddi-Smith, 49A05-0708-CR-445, a drunk driving case that Marion Superior Judge Rueben Hill ruled on in early August, throwing out a woman's arrest because of the oath-taking issue. The Indiana Attorney General's office filed a petition in August to appeal the case directly to the state's highest court. Justices accepted emergency transfer Oct. 9 to bypass the Court of Appeals, citing Appellate Rule 56(A) that notes in rare cases the court can bypass the lower court "upon a showing that the appeal involves a substantial question of law of great public importance and that an emergency exists requiring a speedy determination."

This high-profile appeal comes after Judge Hill in Criminal Court 18 - himself a former Indiana State Police trooper - decided that the January drunk-driving arrest of Oddi-Smith was illegal because the arresting officer was not officially sworn in after the police merger of the Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Only top officials and a few officers took the oath following the merger, according to defense attorneys James Voyles and Annie Fierek.

The judge noted in his opinion that 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.

Potentially at stake in the case: thousands of arrests made this year. Though Judge Hill has vowed not to hold this standard to other cases, and the officers have since taken an official oath, defense attorneys could still have a field day with appeals on countless arrests made by the law enforcement agency.

Cynthia Ploughe, deputy attorney general arguing for the Indiana Attorney General's Office, told the court that oaths are mostly ceremonial and don't mean much - it's the training that matters more.

"There is no state law that requires the IMDP to be sworn in; they are de facto officers," she said, mentioning that the local in-house ordinance can't be applied as a law.

Justice Brent Dickson interjected arguments at one point, asking the importance of this issue that seems more like a "fictional issue" than anything of practical importance. He posed the question of whether an officer is less obligated to the Constitution by not taking an oath.

Voyles countered the state's point, noting that an oath is more than just a "technical nicety" and is a promise that officers will uphold the Constitution.

Justice Frank Sullivan picked up on the term "consolidated" and compared the law enforcement consolidation to a corporate merger, where the new entity is beholden to all the previous liability and obligations the former two agencies had.

He pondered what would happen to lawsuits or actions filed to a previous agency if that liability went away with a consolidation, and his colleagues picked up on that thought. Justice Ted Boehm noted that it could create an opportunity for municipalities to create a shell game to avoid liability, washing their hands clean of any potential trouble by forming a new entity.

"If an oath doesn't carry over, what else doesn't carry over," Justice Sullivan asked. "What implications does that have, and how can that make sense?"

You can watch the Supreme Court arguments online at http://www.indianacourts.org/apps/webcasts.
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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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