ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES:
P. STEPHEN MILLER KAREN M. FREEMAN-WILSON
Fort Wayne, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
JOSEPH A. SAMRETA
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
JAMES LESHORE, )
Appellant-Defendant, ) Supreme Court Cause Number
) Court of Appeals Cause Number
STATE OF INDIANA, ) 02A03-0007-CR-234
APPEAL FROM THE ALLEN SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable Frances C. Gull, Judge
Cause No. 02D04-9903-CF-133
ON PETITION TO TRANSFER
September 13, 2001
We grant the States petition to transfer and hold that where a police
officer places a person in handcuffs pursuant to a Writ of Body Attachment,
the person is lawfully detained within the meaning of the escape statute even
though the Writ later proves to be defective.
On March 17, 1999, police officer Michael Bennington went to the Fort Wayne
home of James Leshore to execute a Writ of Body Attachment. Leshore
had not paid child support and was being cited for contempt of court.
The Writ directed Officer Bennington to attach and keep [Leshore] until you
bring [him] before the Judge to answer a charge of contempt in not
obeying the order of [the Allen Superior Court]. R. at 69.
Officer Bennington entered Leshores home, placed Leshore in handcuffs, and detained him.
Slipping free of the cuffs, Leshore fled the scene. He was apprehended
Leshore was charged with escape and following a bench trial was convicted as
charged. The trial court sentenced him to four years imprisonment, ordered the
sentence suspended, and placed Leshore on probation for two years. In a
two to one decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court finding
the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. Leshore v. State, 739
N.E.2d 1075, 1079 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). Observing that escape requires a
person to flee from lawful detention, the Court of Appeals majority determined that
Leshore was never lawfully detained because the Writ of Body Attachment was invalid
on its face. Id. More specifically, the Court of Appeals pointed
out that the statute concerning the issuance of a Writ of Body Attachment
requires the trial court to fix an amount of  escrow, if the
order that the person has allegedly violated concerns a child support obligation[;] or
fix an amount of  bail, if the order the person has allegedly
violated does not concern a child support obligation[.] Id. at 1077; Ind.
Code § 34-47-4-2(b)(2). In this case, the form order for the Writ
shows the trial court neither fixed an amount for escrow nor bail but
specifically called for No Bond. R. at 68. The Court of
Appeals reversed Leshores escape conviction because there was never a lawful detention for
Leshore to intentionally flee from. Leshore, 739 N.E.2d at 1079. We
grant transfer and affirm the trial court.
We first observe because the Writ did not include an amount for bail
or escrow it was defective. However, we disagree with the Court of
Appeals that the defect rendered the Writ invalid on its face. Facial
invalidity is not determined by comparing the statute concerning Writs of Body Attachment
with the Writ ultimately issued. Rather, invalidity is dependent upon the circumstances
of the particular case. The question is whether an examination of the
four corners of the document reveals that it is invalid. See, e.g.,
Stine v. Shuttle, 134 Ind. App. 67, 186 N.E.2d 168, 172 (1962) (observing
the general rule that an officer executing process or a warrant is not
required to look beyond the process or warrant or determine the validity or
regularity of the proceedings on which it is founded, or to exercise his
judgment touching its validity in a point of law . . . .);
see also United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 923 (1984) (commenting that
by failing to particularize the place to be searched and the things to
be seized, a search warrant may be so facially defective that executing officers
cannot reasonably presume it to be valid.). In this case, one who
looked at the Writ would not necessarily suspect that it was invalid.
The Writ contained the name of the defendant/respondent: James Leshore; set forth
his address; identified the document as a Writ of Body Attachment for a
person who was in contempt of court; ordered law enforcement to attach and
keep Leshore; and bore the signature of the issuing judge. R. at
68. In essence, the Writ was regular on its face, appeared to
be valid, and gave no indication that anything more needed to be done
other than to execute it. Only if Officer Bennington knew or had
reason to know that the applicable statute required the posting of an amount
for escrow or bail would he have been alerted that something was amiss.
However, there is no such evidence of record.
In any event, although not facially invalid, the Writ was defective as a
matter of law. However, that fact alone is not dispositive of whether
Leshore was lawfully detained. Citing Indiana Code sections 35-41-1-18(a)(1) and (10) (Supp.
2000), which defines lawful detention as arrest  or  any other detention
for law enforcement purposes, Judge Barnes writing in dissent concluded that Officer Bennington
was engaged in a law enforcement activity, and thus Leshore was lawfully detained.
Leshore, 739 N.E.2d at 1079. We agree with Judge Barnes.
Officer Bennington testified that he was assigned to the Warrants Division of the
Allen County Sheriffs Department and had the duty to go out and locate
individuals that are hiding or disobeying the Court, not honoring warrants or personal
appearances that they should make before the Court and bring them into custody.
R. at 45. Leshore has neither demonstrated nor argued why the
officers account of his activity does not qualify as law enforcement activity.
Rather, Leshore insists [t]o allow law enforcement to detain and place into custody
any individual for a civil matter under circumstances in which the detainee may
be held without any provision for his or her release, would seem to
be a flagrant violation of every citizens constitutional rights. Br. in Oppn
to Transfer at 1.
Leshores argument is misplaced. A person seized through the issuance of a
defective Writ of Body Attachment may have a civil rights claim or a
cause of action in tort against those responsible for its issuance, see, e.g.,
Delk v. Bd. Of Commrs of Delaware County, 503 N.E.2d 436 (Ind. Ct.
App. 1987) (complaint for false imprisonment and a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 where person seized pursuant to a Writ of Body Attachment was not
the person named in the document); however, the fact the Writ is defective
does not control whether an officer is engaged in law enforcement activity at
the time the Writ is served. Indeed, a law enforcement officer has
no choice but to carry out an order of a judge when the
judge is acting in a judicial capacity in a matter over which the
judge has jurisdiction. See Grant County Commrs v. Cotton, 677 N.E.2d 1103,
1105 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997) (finding sheriff entitled to judicial immunity for detaining
a person for an extended period of time as a result of a
judges order), trans. denied; see also I.C. § 34-47-4-2(c)-(d) (dictating that a sheriff
who receives a body attachment order shall immediately: (1) serve the writ;
and (2) take the person into custody and immediately . . . take
the person before the court that issued the writ.). In this case,
when placing the handcuffs on Leshore, Officer Bennington was acting in the course
of his employment as a law enforcement officer pursuant to an order by
a trial court that was valid on its face. The officer was
obligated to discharge his duty. Further, absent exceptions not applicable here, just
as a citizen may not resist arrest by a police officer even if
the arrest later proves to be unlawful, Casselman v. State, 472 N.E.2d 1310,
1315 (Ind. Ct. App. 1985); City of Indianapolis v. Ervin, 405 N.E.2d 55,
63 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980); Williams v. State, 160 Ind. App. 294, 311
N.E.2d 618, 621 (1974), a citizen may not escape from a police officers
detention even if the grounds upon which the detention is based are later
determined to be defective.
The evidence was sufficient to sustain Leshores conviction. We therefore affirm the
judgment of the trial court.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, SULLIVAN and BOEHM, JJ., concur.