Indiana Court Rules for Police in DUI Case

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled on an issue involving a challenge to a DUI arrest that could have had far reaching implications.

Cheryl Oddi-Smith was charged with drunk driving after being involved in a three-car fender bender on January 15, 2007. Her DUI defense attorneys discovered that the arresting officer had not taken an oath to the new Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which had been formed in January. A lower court judge in Marion County, Indiana threw out the driving under the influence charge leading prosecutors to appeal the decision to the high court.

During the lower court hearing the defense attorneys argued that police officer status, and thus their authority, did not transfer to the newly formed IMPD, which consolidated the city and county law enforcement agencies. Officers from both departments had taken part in a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony following the merger, but attendance was optional. The legal challenge was based on merger guidelines outlined in both an ordinance passed by the City-County Council and the newly written IMPD policy book. While admitting that his ruling probably would not stand but was based on the case at hand, a Marion Superior Court judge agreed and granted suppression of evidence due to an illegal arrest.

In the 5-0 vote, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that officers who had formerly pledged an oath to either the Indianapolis Police Department or the Marion County Sheriff’s Department retained their law enforcement status when the agencies merged. The justices found the intent for a seamless transition in the merger, and said that the oath requirement applied to new officers only.

The decision not only reinstates the case against Oddi-Smith, it clarifies the status of potentially thousands of other arrests that took place after the creation of the IMPD.

DUI Attorneys |