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Dale v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

January 31, 2017

ANTHONY DALE, Defendant Below-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee.

          Submitted: December 7, 2016

         Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID. No. 1306017883

          Before HOLLAND, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.

          ORDER

          JAMES T. VAUGHN, JR. JUSTICE

         This 31st day of January 2017, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record of the case, it appears that:

         1. The Appellant, Anthony Dale, appeals from the Superior Court's denial of his Motion for Postconviction Relief. He makes two claims on appeal. He claims that the Superior Court erred by finding he was not prejudiced by his trial counsel's failure to move for severance of charges that he was a Person Prohibited From Possessing a Firearm and Ammunition. His second claim is that the Superior Court erred in finding that he was not prejudiced by his trial counsel's failure to file a motion to suppress evidence.

         2. On June 19, 2013, Officer Thomas Looney of the Wilmington Police Department was on patrol. Around 10:30 p.m., he saw a man sitting in the passenger side of a silver Nissan Altima. The car was parked on the west side of the 2300 block of North Carter Street in Wilmington. The engine was not running. As Officer Looney passed the car, he saw Dale "lean[] from the passenger seat into the driver's seat with his hands down on the floor below the steering wheel . . . down below the seat to the driver's side floor."[1]

         3. Finding Dale's conduct suspicious, Officer Looney circled the block multiple times. Each time he passed, he saw Dale lean his body in the same manner towards the driver side of the car. On the third pass of the car, Officer Looney pulled behind the Altima, turned on his high beams, and approached Dale.

         4. Dale peered out the back window as Officer Looney approached the car. When Officer Looney reached the front passenger door, he saw Dale leaning to the driver's side with his head on the steering wheel and his hands on the driver's side floor. Officer Looney then shined his flashlight and tapped on the window to get Dale's attention. Dale appeared nervous. He sat up, opened the door, and gave the officer his identification card. At some point during the encounter, Officer Looney determined the car was not registered to Dale.

         5. Detective David Ham and his partner came to assist Officer Looney. After they arrived, Officer Looney asked Dale to step out of the vehicle. Officer Looney asked Detective Ham to check the driver's side area of the car. Detective Ham complied, noticed the floor mat was lifted, and found a loaded gun under the floor mat. Officer Looney also found two oxycodone pills on Dale after patting him down. The officers arrested Dale for Possession of a Firearm By a Person Prohibited, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Possession of Ammunition By a Person Prohibited, and Aggravated Possession. The State dropped the Aggravated Possession charge prior to trial.

         6. At trial, Dale stipulated, through counsel, that he was not permitted to possess a firearm or ammunition. The stipulation did not include the reason that Dale was prohibited, which was that he had a prior drug conviction. After a two day trial, a Superior Court jury found Dale guilty of all charges. The Superior Court sentenced Dale to four years of Level V incarceration followed by decreasing levels of supervision.

         7. Dale filed a notice of appeal, but the appeal was later voluntarily dismissed. He filed a timely Motion for Postconviction Relief. In the motion, Dale claimed his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to sever the Person Prohibited charges from the Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon Charge and for not moving to suppress the gun the police found in the car.

         8. A Superior Court Commissioner recommended that the court deny Dale's Motion for Postconviction Relief.[2] A Superior Court Judge approved the Commissioner's Report and Recommendation.[3]

         9. We review the Superior Court's denial of a Rule 61 motion for postconviction relief for abuse of discretion.[4] We review ...


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