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State v. Smith

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

February 28, 2014

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
FRANK SMITH, Defendant Below, Appellee.

Submitted: November 12, 2013

On Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas Decision AFFIRMED

Daniel G. Simmons, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Attorney for Appellant.

Albert M. Greto, Esquire, Attorney for Appellee.

DAVIS, J.

Introduction

This is an appeal from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas granting Appellee Frank Smith's Motion to Suppress Evidence and Statements (the "Motion"). After an evidentiary hearing on the Motion, the Court of Common Pleas concluded that the Appellant State of Delaware failed to meet its burden of proof in demonstrating that a DUI sobriety checkpoint (the "Checkpoint"), set up by the Delaware State Police

Department (the "State Police") on August 31, 2012, satisfied the necessary requirements under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The Court of Common Pleas based its decision on a finding that the testimony from the State's only witness, Corporal Michael Cahall of the State Police, and the 902(11) affidavit of Lisa Shaw (the "Shaw Affidavit") were not enough to meet the State's evidentiary burden of demonstrating that the Checkpoint was properly established under applicable law. For the reasons set forth below, the Court of Common Pleas' decision is AFFIRMED, as this Court holds that the decision of the Court of Common Pleas is free of legal error and the factual findings below are sufficiently supported by the record and are the product of an orderly and logical deductive process.

Procedural Posture

The Court of Common Pleas held an evidentiary hearing on this matter on April 3, 2013 (the "Hearing").[1] At the Hearing, the Court of Common Pleas heard testimony (direct, cross and redirect) from Corporal Cahall and considered three exhibits proffered and admitted on behalf of the State – including the Shaw Affidavit. In addition, the Court of Common Pleas also considered two exhibits proffered and admitted on behalf of Mr. Smith. At the conclusion of the Hearing, the Court of Common Pleas ruled from the bench and granted the relief sought in the Motion.

The State filed a timely notice of appeal with this Court. This Court issued a briefing schedule on June 20, 2013. The State submitted its Opening Brief on July 8, 2013. Mr. Smith submitted his Answering Brief on July 29, 2013. The State submitted its Reply Brief on August 6, 2013. This Court held oral argument on November 12, 2013. After the hearing, also on November 12, 2013, the State filed a letter with the Court citing additional legal authorities that the State failed to present at the oral argument.

Factual Background

The facts presented to the Court of Common Pleas were straightforward and relatively uncontested. On August 31, 2012, the State Police began the process of setting up the Checkpoint.[2] The Checkpoint is part of the Checkpoint Strikeforce initiative established by the State to address intoxicated driving in Delaware.[3]

On August 31, 2012, Corporal Cahill and other members of the Checkpoint Strikeforce met at the Newport Police Department to go over the logistics of the Checkpoint.[4] According to Corporal Cahall, before leaving to set up the Checkpoint, Newport Police Department Chief Capriglione explained where the Checkpoint was to be set up.[5] Chief Capriglione also reviewed the rules and guidelines that were supposed to be followed when establishing the Checkpoint and where the Checkpoint Strikeforce members were to be positioned at the Checkpoint.[6]

Corporal Cahall testified that the Checkpoint was authorized to be operated between 10:00 p.m. on August 31, 2012 and 2:00 a.m. on September 1, 2012.[7] The Shaw Affidavit seems to indicate that the Checkpoint was to be located at Route 13 (Market Street Bridge) at Rogers Road.[8] As Corporal Cahall testified, the State Police actually located the Checkpoint at Route 13 (South Walnut Street) at or about Howard Street.[9]Corporal Cahall testified that Chief Capriglione indicated that the Checkpoint was to be located on South Walnut Street.[10] Chief Capriglione did not testify at the Hearing. Accordingly, the record developed by the State is incomplete as to why the Shaw Affidavit provides that the authorized location for the Checkpoint was to be Route 13 (Market Street Bridge) at Rogers Road, but Chief Capriglione told the Checkpoint Strikeforce members to locate the Checkpoint at some point on South Walnut Street.

After arriving at Route 13 (South Walnut Street) at or about Howard Street, the Checkpoint Strikeforce members set up illuminating signs to notify motorists that they were approaching a DUI sobriety checkpoint.[11] The Checkpoint Strikeforce members also set up orange cones with lights to move traffic into the Checkpoint.[12] Additionally, the Checkpoint Strikeforce members used ...


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