Submitted: February 10, 2014
Daniel G. Simmons, Esquire Deputy Attorney General Attorney for the State of Delaware
Louis B. Ferrara Attorney for Defendant
The Honorable Sheldon K. Rennie Judge
Defendant Kelsey Lane ("Lane") was arrested on July 10, 2013, and charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or with a Prohibited Alcohol Content; Failure to Remain within a Single Lane, and; Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device on a One-way Roadway. On December 4, 2013, Lane noticed the present Motion to Suppress.
A hearing on the motion was held on January 7, 2014. At the hearing, the Court heard testimony from two witnesses. The Court reserved decision and ordered supplemental briefing from the parties on the issues of (1) whether the defendant was under arrest when she was placed in the rear of a self-locking police vehicle for approximately ten (10) minutes; and (2) if the defendant was detained rather than arrested, then was she legally detained pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 1902 or otherwise. This is the decision of the Court on Lane's Motion to Suppress.
At the hearing, Amanda Yeaton ("Yeaton") testified as the State's first witness. Yeaton testified that she accompanied her friend, Lane, to a restaurant in Trolley Square on July 9, 2013, to celebrate Lane's birthday with friends. Yeaton testified that while at the restaurant, she "believe[d]" that Lane had a beer with dinner. After dinner, the group went to another location where Lane consumed a margarita. Yeaton "believe[d]" that Lane consumed one shot of alcohol as well.
When Lane and Yeaton departed, Yeaton volunteered to drive because she felt Lane had consumed more alcohol than her. However, Lane proceeded to drive Yeaton home. Although she paid attention to Lane's driving initially, Yeaton did not notice anything wrong with the way Lane was driving and eventually stopped paying attention. While driving along Murphy Road towards Faulk Road, the vehicle collided with two road signs.
Yeaton testified that the windshield was cracked, but it appeared that neither she nor Lane were injured. Soon after the accident they were approached by a police officer. Yeaton testified that the officer asked them basic information such as their names, who they were and what they were doing. Yeaton further testified that the officer asked her if Lane had been drinking, to which Yeaton responded affirmatively.
The second witness to testify for the State was Senior Sergeant Keith Sparks ("Sergeant Sparks"). Sergeant Sparks testified that he has worked for the New Castle County Police for thirty (30) years. On the night of July 9, 2013, Sergeant Sparks was assigned to uniform patrol. He was on Wilson Road approaching Faulk Road when he saw what appeared to be a cloud of smoke.
Sergeant Sparks stopped to investigate and he determined that there had been a one-vehicle accident, and that the vehicle was resting in a mulch bed off the road. Sergeant Sparks also observed two traffic signs dislodged and a considerable amount of debris in the roadway. He called into the dispatch center to let them know he was at the scene of an accident and there appeared to be potential injuries.
Sergeant Sparks approached the vehicle to ask about injuries. The passenger, Yeaton, stated "I told her not to drive, she was too drunk." Sergeant Sparks approached the driver side of the vehicle and detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from the car. He also smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Lane's breath. He asked the driver, Lane, to step out of her vehicle and go into the back of his police car for her own safety because of the extensive damage to the vehicle and because steam was coming from her car. Sergeant Sparks testified that because Lane was intoxicated and there was debris in the roadway, he did not want to take the chance that she would wander around the accident scene. He also knew that an officer from the Delaware State Police would be responding to assume the investigation.
Lane complied with Sergeant Sparks' request and sat in the back of his self-locking police vehicle, without handcuffs, until Delaware State Police arrived. Sergeant Sparks testified that he believed Lane was ...