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Reed v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 14, 2014

JAMES REED, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee

Submitted February 19, 2014

Case Closed April 30, 2014.

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County. Cr. I.D. No. 1302010121.

Before BERGER, JACOBS and RIDGELY, Justices.

OPINION

Carolyn Berger, Justice

ORDER

This 14th day of April, on consideration of the briefs and arguments of the parties, it appears to the Court that:

1) James Reed appeals fro his conviction, following a bench trial, of possession of a controlled substance. He argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress drugs that the police found during a pat-down search. Specifically, Reed contends that: i) the pat down exceeded the permissible bounds of the traffic stop; and ii) the trial court's finding that the drugs would have been discovered during a valid search pursuant to arrest was clearly erroneous. We agree that the record facts do not support application of the " inevitable discovery" rule. Accordingly, we reverse.

2) In February 2013, at about 7:00 p.m., Wilmington Police Officers James Houck and John Fleming responded to an anonymous report of a suspicious vehicle. When the police arrived at the specified location, they saw a car idling in an alleyway. Fleming approached the driver's side of the vehicle and Houck approached the passenger side. They saw Reed in the driver's seat, slumped over and apparently sleeping or passed out. Fleming knocked on the car window and Reed opened his eyes. Fleming asked Reed for identification, car registration and proof of insurance. Reed could not find any of those documents.

3) Fleming then removed the ignition key and asked Reed to get out of the car. Fleming began patting Reed down, and, during the pat-down, asked Reed whether he had any weapons, drugs or needles. Reed said he did not know. Fleming discovered Reed's wallet, with his license, in his pants pocket. Fleming also discovered ten bags of heroin and a hypodermic needle. Reed was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving while license suspended or revoked, and no proof of insurance.

4) Reed moved to suppress the evidence discovered during the pat-down. The trial court denied the motion, holding:

So, I will deny the Motion to Suppress on that ground [that Reed had committed arrestable motor vehicle offenses] and inevitability of discovery but not on community caretaker or that [the police] had officer ...

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