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State v. Dickens

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

October 8, 2013



On this 8th day of October, 2013, IT IS ORDERED as follows:


Before the Court is Defendant Gary Dickens' ("Defendant") Motion to Suppress, brought by counsel. Defendant argues that his statements were involuntary and given without Miranda warnings. Defendant also seeks to suppress the results of a blood test administered in connection with his arrest for Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") for lack of probable cause.[1] The Court has reviewed the motion and the State's response and held a suppression hearing; for the following reasons, the Defendant's motion is DENIED.

Findings of Fact

On March 7, 2013, a 911 caller reported an accident in which a single car collided with an industrial dumpster. The caller witnessed the driver, a man in a grey sweat-suit, leaving the scene. When Officer John O'Hara ("Officer O'Hara")[2] and his field training officer, Officer Heckman, were dispatched to the scene, they observed the left side of a Silver Pontiac G6, with a temporary tag, compacted against a green industrial dumpster.[3] The vehicle was inoperable, its airbags were deflated, and there were spots of blood in, on, and around the vehicle.[4]

Officer O'Hara conducted a CJIS inquiry of the vehicle and discovered that the car was registered to Eve Smallwood ("Ms. Smallwood"), who resided about one mile away from the scene. The officers went to the residence to determine the circumstances relating to the accident, including the identity of the driver and the extent of the injuries sustained. Officer O'Hara knocked and, when Ms. Smallwood opened the door, he explained that an accident occurred and that police were trying to identify the driver. Ms. Smallwood responded that her stepfather, Defendant, used her car to go to the liquor store and had arrived at the home ten minutes before the officers arrived. Ms. Smallwood allowed the officers to enter and informed them that Defendant had a gash on his head that may require medical treatment.

Defendant was in an upstairs bedroom. Officer O'Hara observed the large gash in Defendant's head[5] and blood on Defendant's grey sweat-suit. After Defendant exited the bedroom, Officer O'Hara directed him to come downstairs and sit at the kitchen table.[6] While awaiting medical personnel, Officer O'Hara asked Defendant about what had occurred in order to gather more information about the accident.[7] Defendant replied that he was returning from getting cigarettes at Wawa when, "the dumpster popped out of nowhere." Defendant also informed Officer O'Hara that he left the scene because he didn't have a license. Officer O'Hara smelled alcohol emanating from Defendant's breath and observed that his eyes were glassy and bloodshot. Officer O'Hara then asked whether Defendant had been drinking and Defendant stated that he had been drinking a little. When Officer O'Hara asked him again, Defendant admitted to having a half-pint of bourbon before he went to the liquor store. Defendant's speech was slurred and, at times, incoherent and incomplete.[8]

Once the ambulance arrived to transport Defendant to the hospital, Officers O'Hara and Heckman officers returned to the accident scene. About forty-five minutes to an hour later, Officers O'Hara and Heckman went to the hospital and asked hospital staff where Defendant was located. They were directed to a hospital room and informed by hospital staff that Defendant's diagnostic tests were negative.[9]

Officer O'Hara did not attempt a Portable Breath Test ("PBT"), nor did he attempt to administer Field Sobriety Tests ("FSTs"). Nevertheless, Officer O'Hara asked Defendant if he would consent to a blood draw. Officer O'Hara read an "Implied Consent and Probable Cause Form" to Defendant.[10] Under the section marked "Probable Cause, " Officer O'Hara signed the section acknowledging that he had probable cause, conducted a chemical test, and arrested the defendant. In a separate "Specimen Acquisition Authorization" form, Defendant signed the section that stated, "I hereby give permission to the Christiana Health Services to take the specimens requested for police purposes […]."[11]

A blood draw was obtained at 3:08 a.m. resulting in a blood alcohol content reading of 0.16. After he was read discharge instructions and acknowledged that he understood them, [12] Defendant was discharged from the hospital at 4:08 a.m.[13]


I. Defendant's statements will not be suppressed because they were given voluntarily and he was not subject to custodial interrogation.

In order to protect the privilege against self-incrimination, [14] law enforcement officials are constitutionally required to advise citizens of certain rights prior to subjecting them to custodial interrogation.[15] However, the advisement of these rights, also known as "Miranda warnings, " is not required merely because the person being question is suspected by the police of criminal conduct.[16] Unless a defendant is both 1) in custody or in a custodial setting and 2) subject to interrogation, he will not be entitled to a reading of Miranda warnings.[17]

For purposes of Miranda, a person is in custody when, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in the same position would not feel free to leave.[18] This standard requires the Court to weigh objective circumstances, not the subjective views of the individual or the officers.[19] Interrogation may ...

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