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State v. Boyer

Superior Court of Delaware, Sussex

June 23, 2015

State
v.
Paris Boyer

Dear Counsel

Before the Court is defendant Paris Boyer's ("Defendant") Motion to Suppress evidence found during a search of his residence. Specifically, Defendant is requesting this Court to convene a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware[1] to assess the adequacy and veracity of the facts provided in the warrant application. In the alternative, Defendant argues the warrant is overly broad, or a general warrant, in that it allowed law enforcement to "search and seize items not specifically listed in the warrant, " since it authorized the search and "seizure of 'any and all other items that may be stolen from thefts from vehicles or burglaries reported . . . .'"[2]

The Court finds that a Franks hearing is not necessary. Further, without the complained of information, or lack thereof, there are sufficient facts stated in the search warrant affidavit to establish probable cause that the fruits of alleged burglaries were stored in Defendant's residence. As such, the Court does not deem the search warrant to be unconstitutionally broad or general because it provided sufficient notice to Defendant and other residents regarding the types of items being sought bas ed on the specifically described items enumerated in the warrant. The mere fact that the warrant included a catch-all clause, that some items listed were not found in the residence, and that certain items were located in places other than in plain view does not dictate that necessity for such a hearing. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Suppress is DENIED.

FACTS

In August of 2014, the Delaware State Police were investigating a string of burglaries[3] in Sussex County, Delaware. Detective Keith McCabe ("McCabe") was assigned to the case. One of the items stolen during one of the burglaries, occurring on August 11, 2014, was an Apple iMac computer ("iMac"). McCabe was eventually able to locate the iMac by the serial number at the Atlantic Pawn Shop ("Atlantic") in Millsboro, Delaware.[4] The iMac had been pawned by Defendant and Montrell Burton ("Burton"), evidenced by Defendant's signature on the pawn slip receipt and surveillance footage from Atlantic.[5]

At the time of McCabe's investigation, Defendant was on probation at Level IV home confinement.[6] McCabe, upon further investigation, learned that this Court had imposed, as a condition of probation, a no-contact order between Defendant and Burton.[7] As such, McCabe contacted Defendant's probation officer, Todd Meredith ("Meredith"), regarding Defendant's and Burton's infraction of the no-contact order. McCabe informed Meredith of the violation of probation and showed Meredith the surveillance video of the two at Atlantic.[8] While discussing the surveillance footage and the no-contact order, McCabe informed Meredith that he was interested in the Defendant because he was a suspect for a series of burglaries. McCabe also explained his belief that Defendant had "multiple items that [he] believed could be stolen, such as GPSs, electronic devices, cell phones, handbags, and laptop computers and any items that you would find in a motor vehicle."[9] McCabe, however, never described a specific list of items to Meredith.[10] At the conclusion of their meeting, McCabe asked Meredith to observe the color of Defendant's vehicle at Defendant's next scheduled probation meeting.[11] McCabe's concern with the color vehicle Defendant drove was due to Defendant arriving at Atlantic in a red or maroon Hyundai Santa Fe.[12]

At their next scheduled probation meeting, Meredith observed Defendant drive a red Santa Fe.[13] Meredith informed McCabe of this information. Upon further investigation, McCabe discovered that the red Santa Fe belonged to Defendant's mother.[14]

On August 21, 2014, several reports of other vehicles that were broken into in the housing development the Reserves of Nassau ("Nassau Housing Development") were recorded.[15] "During one of the incident[s] a resident . . . confronted a subject outside his residence going through [the resident's] vehicle. The subject approached him at gunpoint and ordered him to the ground placing the gun to his head."[16] Nassau's video surveillance system revealed a red SUV leaving the development shortly after the incident.[17]

On September 4, 2014, after obtaining the proper authorizations from his supervisor, Meredith conducted a home visit to arrest Defendant for violating his probation due to his infraction of the no-contact order.[18] Meredith, the Governor's Task Force, and SPO Todd Mumford approached Defendant's house.[19] Defendant answered the door, invited Meredith and the others inside, and was arrested.[20]Meredith explained he was arresting Defendant for violating the no-contact order with Burton, and placed Defendant on a couch in Defendant's house.[21] At that point, Meredith cleared the house for officer safety purposes ("protective sweep"), going into each room of the house to check whether other people were hidden or located in the house.[22] While conducting the protective sweep, Meredith entered a room he knew to be Defendant's bedroom.[23] In Defendant's bedroom, Meredith saw, in plain view, two cell phones on a table, a laptop computer on the floor of the bedroom, and several purses inside the bedroom's open closets.[24] Meredith only observed the objects, inspecting them visually, but never touched anything in the room, before leaving to continue the protective sweep.[25] After Meredith completed the protective sweep, he took Defendant outside and placed him in his vehicle before driving him to Troop 4 to talk to McCabe.[26] Prior to driving Defendant to Troop 4, however, Meredith contacted McCabe and simply told him "that when we did the arrest, when I entered into Paris Boyer's bedroom, I observed multiple electronic devices consistent with–well, I saw multiple electronic devices in the residence and handbags."[27] With this information in hand, McCabe applied for a warrant to search Defendant's residence for items, both general and specific, related to the burglaries in question.[28] The relevant portions of the search warrant stated:

On 9/04/14, Probation Officer Todd Meredith conducted a home check on Paris Boyer, currently on Level 4 Home Confinement, at his residence . . . . They entered the residence and observed in plain view numerous electronics consistent with the burglaries. Probation Officer Meredith immediately contacted your affiant to pass on the information. Based on the information above including numerous credit cards, and electronics being taken and located in the residence of Paris Boyer, your affiant believes that there is probable cause to search the residence (emphasis added).[29]

Further, the warrant listed on an attachment entitled "ITEMS TO BE SEARCHED FOR AND SEIZED" several specific items, but also included the following: "[a]ny and all other items that may be stolen from thefts from vehicles or burglaries reported (emphasis added)" as item to be searched for and seized.[30]

Based on the above quoted language, McCabe and Delaware State Police entered Defendant's home, searched, and obtained several items not specifically listed on the warrant. Defendant was subsequently charged with over two hundred (200) crimes.[31]

PROCEDURAL POSTURE

On February 12, 2015, Defendant filed a motion to suppress, challenging the constitutionality of Meredith's administrative search, i.e. his protective sweep.[32]Primarily, Defendant argued Meredith acted as a "stalking horse" for the Delaware State Police, conducting no independent investigation prior to violating Defendant in contravention of the holding in Culver v. State, 956 A.2d 5, 10 (Del. 2008).[33]

An evidentiary hearing for Defendant's suppression motion was held on April 2, 2014 ("April 2 hearing").[34] At the April 2 hearing, it was determined that Defendant's purpose for the hearing was to seek "a ruling about the unlawfulness of the entry into the defendant's residences and his arrest, period, and [that Defendant was] not seeking to suppression anything [specifically recovered during the search] at th[at] point."[35] The Court denied the motion upon determining the arrest for the violation of the no-contact order was lawful, conducting the protective sweep of the residence ...


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