from the Kosciusko Superior Court - 3 The Honorable Joe V.
Sutton, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 43D03-1510-F6-642.
Attorney for Appellant Kerry C. Connor Attorney at Law
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Larry D. Allen Deputy Attorney General
Vaidik, Chief Judge.
[¶1] When Warsaw Police Department
Officer Miles Reichard pulled over Eberaia Fields, Officer
Reichard had not taken the statutory oath for law-enforcement
officers. Fields filed a motion to dismiss the charges
against him, and the trial court denied his motion, finding
that although Officer Reichard had not been sworn in, he was
acting as a de facto officer at the time of the stop.
The de facto officer doctrine confers validity upon acts
performed by a person acting under the color of official
title even though it is later discovered that the legality of
that person's appointment is deficient. The purpose of
this doctrine is to protect the public by insuring the
orderly functioning of the government despite technical
defects in title to office. We find that Officer
Reichard's failure to take the oath is a technical defect
in his title to office. But because the record shows that
Officer Reichard claimed the office, was in possession of it,
and performed its duties under the color of appointment, we
conclude that he was acting as a de facto officer at the time
of the stop. We therefore affirm the trial court's denial
of Fields's motion to dismiss the charges against him.
and Procedural History
[¶3] The underlying facts in this case
are undisputed. Officer Reichard pulled over Fields in the
early-morning hours of September 12, 2015, due to a broken
license-plate light. At the time of the stop, Officer
Reichard was in full Warsaw Police Department uniform, was
driving a marked Warsaw Police Department patrol car, and
identified himself as an officer with the Warsaw Police
Department. Fields was ultimately charged with Level 6 felony
operating a vehicle while intoxicated, two counts of Level 6
felony intimidation, and Class C misdemeanor violation of
special-driving privileges. The State also alleged that
Fields was a habitual vehicular substance offender.
In December 2016, Fields filed a motion to dismiss all
charges against him because Officer Reichard "had not
been lawfully sworn in to act with the authority of the
Warsaw Police Department at the time of the stop and
detention . . . on September 12, 201."
Appellant's App. Vol. III p. 38; see Ind. Code
§ 5-4-1-1(a) ("[E]very officer and every deputy,
before entering on the officer's or deputy's official
duties, shall take an oath . . . ."); State v.
Oddi-Smith, 878 N.E.2d 1245, 1247-48 (Ind. 2008)
(concluding that Section 5-4-1-1 applies to law-enforcement
officers and that officers must take an oath before beginning
At the hearing on Fields's motion to dismiss, evidence
was presented that Officer Reichard began working for the
Warsaw Police Department on November 9, 2014, and that he
received his first paycheck a couple weeks later. Tr. Vol. II
pp. 17-18. However, Officer Reichard did not have his oath of
office administered and filed with the Kosciusko County Clerk
until November 19, 2015-a year after he was hired and two
months after he stopped Fields. Exs. A & B; Tr. Vol. II
pp. 13, 19-21. The State presented additional evidence that
before Officer Reichard began working for the Warsaw Police
Department, he worked part-time for the Indiana University
Police Department while he was attending college. As part of
the training for that job, he went to the "Police
Academy" and received, among other things, firearms
training. Tr. Vol. II p. 32. Upon being hired by the Warsaw
Police Department, Officer Reichard received a paycheck,
health-insurance and retirement benefits, a uniform,
handcuffs, a handgun, ammunition, a taser, a fully marked
patrol car, and badge number 161. Id. at 36-40. He
also underwent a two-week orientation and was supervised by a
field-training officer for twelve weeks before he was allowed
to patrol on his own. Id. at 31, 49-50. Finally,
Officer Reichard acted with the approval and consent of the
Warsaw Chief of Police.
After additional briefing by the parties, the trial court
denied Fields's motion to dismiss the charges against
him, concluding that Officer Reichard was acting as a de
facto officer when he stopped Fields on September 12, 2015.
This interlocutory ...