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State v. Diaz

Superior Court of Delaware

November 26, 2013

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
DANIEL DIAZ, Defendant.

Submitted: October 7, 2013.

Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress – DENIED

Jan A.T. van Amerongen, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice. Attorney for State of Delaware.

Michael W. Modica, Esquire, Attorney for Defendant.

OPINION

JURDEN, J.

At the time of his April 8, 2013 arrest, Defendant Daniel Diaz was an active probationer. Knowing Defendant had left Delaware in violation of his probation, the Delaware State Police stopped Defendant's vehicle after its reentry into Delaware and arrested Defendant. After obtaining a warrant, police searched Defendant's vehicle and discovered 10, 026 individual bags of heroin stowed in an after-market, hidden compartment. Defendant now moves to suppress all the evidence against him, based mainly on an initial warrant permitting GPS tracking. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

In February 2013, Delaware State Police Detective Jeffrey Gilem, a member of the Governor's Task Force (the "GTF"), received information from a confidential informant (the "C.I.") regarding Defendant.[1] The C.I. informed Detective Gilem that a 30-35 year-old, Hispanic male named Daniel Diaz was on active probation, selling heroin in Newark and New Castle, Delaware.[2] The C.I. further told Detective Gilem that Diaz drove a silver, early 2000s Ford Taurus with Pennsylvania registration number JDS4088, which he used to complete drug transactions and make weekly trips to Philadelphia for his heroin supply.[3]

Upon receiving this information, Detective Gilem verified through DELJIS that a Hispanic male named Daniel Diaz, born April 7, 1980, was an active Level III probationer.[4] After contacting Diaz's probation officer, Detective Gilem learned that a silver Ford Taurus matching the description given by the C.I. had been observed at Diaz's address.[5] On March 22, 2013, Detective Gilem conducted a "spot check" and saw the same silver Ford Taurus in Defendant's driveway.[6]

On March 26, 2013, Detective Gilem and other GTF officers conducted surveillance on Defendant. GTF officers watched Defendant leave his residence, enter the Ford Taurus, and drive away.[7] The GTF officers followed Defendant to a shopping center where he allegedly conducted a drug transaction.[8] Detective Gilem affirmed that GTF officers observed Defendant park his vehicle alongside another and exchange a small item for cash, consistent with a drug deal.[9]Additionally, Detective Gilem affirmed that while Defendant was under surveillance, Defendant conducted counter-surveillance by "continuously looking left and right as if scanning the area for potential threats of law enforcement."[10]

During that same week, Detective Gilem, GTF officers, and another confidential informant conducted a controlled purchase with Defendant.[11] Again, while under surveillance, Defendant arrived in the Ford Taurus and conducted counter-surveillance, including his unexpected exit from the area, which Detective Gilem believed to be a tactic intended to expose concealed surveillance units.[12]Shortly after Defendant returned to the location, the C.I. met Defendant and the two conducted an exchange.[13] Using a field test kit, the substances the C.I. purchased from Defendant proved positive for heroin.[14]

The above facts formed the basis of Detective Gilem's Affidavit in Support of a Mobile Tracking Device Warrant in order to track Defendant's silver Ford Taurus. In addition to the factual circumstances leading up to the Detective's GPS tracking request, Detective Gilem affirmed that physical surveillance of Defendant proved extremely difficult and that "tactical and safety" concerns necessitated the GPS device.[15] Detective Gilem believed that the GPS monitoring would lead to more evidence regarding Defendant's drug possession and distribution, in addition to locating Defendant's supply source.[16] Importantly, because GTF was unable to pinpoint Defendant's activity locations, Detective Gilem requested that an Order issue authorizing GPS monitoring beyond Delaware's borders.[17]

The warrant issued on March 27, 2013, and officers installed the GPS device two days later.[18] Via the GPS device, GTF officers observed two separate instances that Defendant drove to North Philadelphia, remained for approximately an hour, and then returned to Delaware.[19] On April 8, 2013, the GPS system again tracked Defendant leaving Delaware heading north.[20] On that date, GTF officers were collaborating with probation officers, preparing to stop Defendant upon his return to Delaware.[21]

GTF officers stopped Defendant's vehicle on I-95, near the 141 exchange, and promptly arrested Defendant for leaving the State in violation of his probation.[22] A K-9 unit present at the stop alerted to the Ford Taurus' exterior and Detective Gilem sought a vehicular search warrant from a Justice of the Peace.[23]Detective Gilem submitted an affidavit of probable cause consisting of the same facts presented in the GPS affidavit, with two additional paragraphs detailing the GPS tracking used to ultimately stop Defendant.[24] The search warrant issued and the ensuing search revealed over 10, 000 individual bags of heroin. The police also found $770 on Defendant.

Probation officers then conducted an administrative search of Defendant's home.[25] The officers located a safe and, after obtaining the combination from Defendant, discovered $1, 836. The officers also discovered an accordion file containing documentation of several, large purchases made with ...


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