Submitted: July 18, 2014
Honorable Mary M. Johnston
Defendant Steven A. Gillis has moved to suppress certain evidence. The Court held a suppression hearing on July 18, 2014. The Court makes the following factual findings.
On February 27, 2014, Defendant's vehicle was stopped for failure to wear a seatbelt. Following the stop, the Delaware State Police officer determined that Defendant's driver's license was revoked for a felony trafficking in cocaine, and Defendant was on probation. The officer determined that Defendant had a prior conviction for driving while suspended or revoked, and two pending driving during suspension charges.
Defendant stated that he lived "right around the corner" at Lancaster Court Apartments. Defendant possessed a house key for Lancaster Court. The officer saw a yellow envelope on the passenger's lap. The envelope contained a large amount of cash. Defendant and the passenger (Defendant's sister) were removed from the vehicle. A K-9 search was conducted. The dog alerted for the presence of illegal drugs on the rear bumper of the vehicle and on the currency.
The State Police officer contacted a probation officer. The probation officer contacted his supervisor and obtained approval for an administrative search of Defendant's residence. The Arrest/Search Checklist and Bureau of Community Corrections Arrest/Incident Report were entered as an exhibit during the suppression hearing. An administrative search of Defendant's residence was approved on the grounds of: the K-9 alert to the presence of illegal drugs in a vehicle that Defendant was driving; Defendant's previous drug conviction; and Defendant driving while his license was revoked.
Probation & Parole (P&P) officers conducted a search of the address on record as Defendant's residence. However, P&P determined that Defendant's personal belongings were not located at that residence. During her interview, Defendant's sister informed the State Police officer that Defendant resided with his girlfriend and child at Lancaster Court Apartments, which were "right around the corner" from the vehicle stop.
P&P conducted a second administrative search of the Lancaster Court apartment. The key found on Defendant's person fit the front door lock to the apartment. In a bedroom, P&P saw a storage bin containing all male clothing, court documents relating to Defendant, and mail addressed to Defendant. The search located: a firearm, which had one round of ammunition chambered and an additional four rounds in the magazine; a box of ammunition containing 20 rounds; and glassine bags commonly used to package illegal drugs. Defendant's girlfriend denied awareness or ownership of the items found.
Ultimately, it was determined that the $4000.00 in United States currency was the result of an auto insurance claim and vehicle claim. The cash was returned to Defendant's sister.
After the Lancaster Court search, Defendant was given Miranda warnings. Defendant stated that he resided at both his address on record with P&P, and at Lancaster Court. The following exchange took place during Defendant's interview:
Police Officer: We obviously don't want to have to go back and arrest [your girlfriend], that's kind of the problem where we're at right now. Do you see where we're at right now? We have a gun, in an apartment, with kids. So we're trying to figure out whose gun it is and how it got there, and if we can't figure it out then we have to go back and do an arrest warrant for her and arrest her for the possession of a firearm, which is a felony. So what I'm asking is, what do you know about this gun?
Defendant: I know that it was put up there . . .
Police Officer: Do you know who put it up there? I can see you shaking your head. I mean, I think I know the answer and I think you know the answer it's just a matter of whether or not you want to do the right thing. That's all it comes down to. Are you ...