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Delvalle v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

September 10, 2013

JONATHAN DELVALLE, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

Submitted: August 28, 2013

Court Below – Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County I.D. No. 1204008839

Before STEELE, Chief Justice, HOLLAND and RIDGELY, Justices.


Randy J. Holland Justice

This 10th day of September 2013, it appears to the Court that: 1) The defendant-appellant, Jonathan Delvalle ("Delvalle"), appeals from a Superior Court order convicting him of Possession of a Deadly Weapon by a Person Prohibited, Possession of a Weapon in a Safe School Zone, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, and Possession of Marijuana. Delvalle raises one claim on appeal. Delvalle argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it held that the officers who detained him possessed a reasonable articulable suspicion to continue detaining him despite one officer's knowledge that they had detained the wrong person.

2) We have concluded Delvalle's argument is without merit. Therefore, the judgments of the Superior Court must be affirmed.

3) In December 2010, Wilmington Police Officers Nolan and Lynch were patrolling the area surrounding the 300 block of North Broom Street in a fully-marked police vehicle when they observed Delvalle walking on the sidewalk.[1] Officer Lynch believed Delvalle to be Jose Fernandini ("Chomo"), a light-skinned Hispanic male who was wanted by police in connection with a recent burglary.[2] Officer Lynch had previous encounters with Chomo, and after seeing Delvalle's face, told Officer Nolan that Delvalle matched the description of Chomo.[3]

4) After Delvalle briefly disappeared, the officers were able to circle the block and relocate him.[4] Officer Nolan exited the vehicle, and immediately handcuffed Delvalle. Thereafter, Officer Lynch exited the vehicle and immediately expressed uncertainty as to whether Delvalle was Chomo, stating, "I don't think that's him." Officer Nolan testified he did not hear this statement.

5) The officers then tried to verify Delvalle's identity, but he could not produce any form of identification or tell the officers his social security number.[5] Delvalle told them that his name was "Jonathan Rodriguez" and that his date of birth was March 22, 1987. The officers were unable to verify this information on DELJIS, [6] and considered Delvalle's nervous behavior to be suspicious. The officers then took Delvalle to the police station for a two-hour detention in order to identify him.[7]

6) On the way to the station, Officer Lynch managed to find an individual in the DELJIS system that had the same name as that provided by Delvalle, but a different date of birth. Based on DELJIS, the individual had four active capiases for his arrest. Delvalle then confessed that he had provided the officers a false date of birth because he had multiple capiases.

7) Once at the station, the officers asked Delvalle if he had anything in his pockets, to which he answered in the affirmative. A search of Delvalle's person yielded ten small baggies of marijuana. In order to take Delvalle into Turnkey, [8] the officers conducted an additional search in which they found a loaded handgun in Delvalle's waistband. The officers removed the handgun and immediately read Delvalle his Miranda rights.

8) A Grand Jury returned a four-count indictment against Delvalle. Delvalle filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence, which was denied after a hearing. After a bench trial, the Superior Court found Delvalle guilty of all charges and sentenced him to an aggregate of six years at Level V. This appeal followed.

9) We review a Superior Court's decision to grant or deny a Motion to Suppress for abuse of discretion.[9] This Court examines the trial court's legal conclusions de novo for errors in formulating or applying legal precepts.[10] Factual findings are reviewed to determine "whether there was sufficient evidence to support the findings and whether those findings were clearly erroneous."[11]

10) Although Delvalle concedes that the officers initially had reasonable suspicion to stop him, he contends that the requisite reasonable suspicion was "erased" when Officer Lynch realized that he was not Chomo. In support of that argument, Delvalle points to three occasions on the record that he contends show that the officers had knowledge that Delvalle was not Chomo, and thus, no longer had reasonable suspicion to detain him. First, Delvalle points out that Lynch stated, "I don't think that's him, " upon exiting the police vehicle and attempting ...

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