Submitted: March 10, 2014
Upon the Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence, DENIED.
John A. Barber, Esq., Wilmington, Delaware 19801.
James K. McCloskey, Esq., Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware 19801.
M. JANE BRADY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE
Presently before this Court is a Motion to Suppress Evidence filed by Darnell Whye ("Defendant") on January 6, 2014. Through his Motion, the Defendant moves to suppress (1) evidence found on his person when police stopped and searched him as well as (2) evidence found in an apartment where he was staying as a guest. The Court heard oral argument on February 7, 2014, and the Court, sua sponte, raised the issue of whether the Defendant has standing to challenge the search of the apartment. Accordingly, this Court reserved judgment and ordered supplemental briefing from the parties on the issue of standing. The Defendant filed his supplemental brief on February 21, 2014, contending he has standing to challenge the search as an overnight guest in the apartment. Through its supplemental brief, which was filed with the Court on March 7, 2014, the State concedes the Defendant has standing as an overnight guest and may challenge the search of the apartment.  For the reasons discussed below, the Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence is DENIED.
On July 11, 2013, at approximately 8:15 p.m., officers with the New Castle County Police Department's Safe Street and Mobile Enforcement Team were conducting surveillance of the Red Clay Creek Apartment complex. During this surveillance, police observed two black males, one wearing a gray, long-sleeve t-shirt,  later determined to be Jeffery Vaughn ("Vaughn"), and another wearing a white t-shirt and black pants, later identified as the
Defendant. Probation Officer Lewis testified that he watched Vaughn and another man walk up to the Defendant and hand him an unidentified object. Officer Lewis then saw the Defendant go into 2100 Grafton Drive, reappear after one or two minutes, and then hand Vaughn something.Vaughn then placed that object in his sock and walked away from the Defendant. Officer Lewis testified that, based on his training and experience, he believed Defendant and Vaughn had engaged in a hand-to-hand drug transaction.
While maintaining constant visual contact with Vaughn,  Officer Bingnear approached Vaughn and, while he was approaching, observed Vaughn withdraw an object his sock, which he dropped on the ground. Upon a visual inspection, Officer Bingnear suspected the object Vaughn discarded was crack cocaine, and subsequent field testing confirmed that it was.
While the officers were confronting Vaughn, two detectives approached the Defendant, who was still standing in front of 2100 Grafton Drive. An investigatory detention revealed the Defendant had four active capiases. A search incident to arrest revealed the Defendant had $180.00 in cash and a cell phone on his person.
Following the Defendant's arrest, Probation Officer Lewis told Detective Bruhn that the Defendant had been seen going in and out of 2100 Grafton Drive, Apartment 81. Police knocked on the door and were greeted by Jennifer Talton ("Ms. Talton"), who is the Defendant's estranged wife.  Ms. Talton told the police that the Defendant occasionally stayed in the apartment to watch their children and slept on the couch. Officers discovered that Ms. Talton was also wanted on multiple capiases. Ms. Talton testified that the officers said they wanted to come into the apartment and look around, and if she would not allow them to come in, they would arrest her for the outstanding traffic capiases. Officers also asked Ms. Talton whether anyone would be able to come and get her children, because if not, they would have to be turned over to Child Protective Services upon her arrest. Ms. Talton let the officers come into the home and signed a consent-to-search form.
Officer Mancuso testified that, when questioned about whether anything illegal was in the apartment, Talton pulled a small bag of marijuana, which Talton claimed belonged to the Defendant, out of an end table next to the couch and told police that the Defendant kept his other belongings in a hallway closet. A search of the closet ...