Submitted: January 25, 2017
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID. No.
HOLLAND, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice.
8th day of February, 2017, having considered the
briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:
Delaware State Police officers stopped Frank Prentice for
failing to signal while making a left turn. When they
approached Prentice's car, they saw two hypodermic
needles in the driver's side door. Police arrested him
and the passenger, Thomas McIlvane, for possession of drug
paraphernalia. McIlvane told the police officers that he was
on probation, and that he was staying at the Motel 6 in
Newark. Because McIlvane was on probation, police decided to
do an administrative search of his hotel room. When Detective
Mark Hogate of the Delaware State Police arrived at the hotel
to search the room, he discovered that the room was rented to
Michael Carello, and decided to notify him of the search.
Carello was standing by a car near the room, loading his
trunk. As the officer approached Carello, he started reaching
behind the small of his back, backed up behind the car, threw
a gun in the trunk, and took off running. Detective Hogate
arrested him, and saw the gun in plain view in his trunk. He
also searched the car and found two digital scales in the
center console, and marijuana in the floorboard of the front
passenger seat. Police then searched the hotel room and found
a gun in a cardboard box between the two beds.
Carello moved to suppress all the evidence found as a result
of the search. The Superior Court granted the motion as to
all of the evidence except the gun found in the open trunk of
the car. The Superior Court ruled that the gun in the trunk
would not be suppressed because the officers were simply
attempting to notify Carello that they were going to search
his room. Thus, the encounter in the parking lot was
consensual, and not a seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
Carello was subsequently convicted of various weapons
offenses in a stipulated bench trial.
appeal, Carello argues that the Superior Court abused its
discretion by refusing to suppress the gun found in the
trunk, arguing that its discovery resulted from an
unconstitutional seizure. The Superior Court correctly held
that the encounter in the parking lot-though escalated by
Carello-did not amount to a seizure for Fourth Amendment
purposes. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the Superior
November 18, 2015, Detective Hogate and several other
Delaware State Police officer members of the Governor's
Task Force were conducting surveillance of a Motel 6 in
Newark. Around 9:00 PM, they saw Prentice make a left turn
out of the hotel parking lot without using his signal, and
stopped his car. When one of the officers approached the car,
he saw two hypodermic needles in plain view in the
driver's side door. They arrested Prentice and the
passenger, McIlvane. McIlvane was on probation at the time.
McIlvane told the officers that he was staying in a room in
the Motel 6 in Newark. When police searched him, they found a
key card to the room. The officers then decided to do an
administrative search of the hotel room. But when the
officers went to the hotel, they found that the room was
rented in Michael Carello's name.
Detective Hogate saw Carello in the hotel parking lot,
loading the trunk of his car. He approached Carello to notify
him that the officers were going to perform an administrative
search of his hotel room. He did not suspect Carello had
committed any crimes. Detective Hogate called out to Carello
and said, "Hey, Michael, I need to talk to
you." Carello looked at Detective Hogate and
reached behind the small of his back with his left hand. The
detective said "don't do that, " and pointed
his gun at Carello. Carello continued staring at the
detective and walked back towards the open trunk of the
vehicle. The detective saw him toss something in the trunk of
his car, and heard a "metallic thud." Carello then
ran away. Detective Hogate chased after Carello and used his
taser to stop him. He then arrested Carello.
Detective Hogate saw a gun in the open trunk of the car.
Police then conducted an inventory search of the car because
"there was no one operating the vehicle on private
property." They found two digital scales in the
center console of the car and two grams of marijuana under
the front passenger floorboard. The police also searched the
hotel room and found another gun in a cardboard box between
the two hotel beds.
grand jury indicted Carello on charges of carrying a
concealed deadly weapon, two counts of possession of a
firearm by a person prohibited, possession of ammunition by a
person prohibited, possession of marijuana, and resisting
arrest. Carello moved to suppress all the evidence obtained
as a result of the search. The court held that the search of
the hotel room and the interior of the car violated
Carello's constitutional right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures, and suppressed the
evidence police obtained from those searches. As to the hotel
room, the court held that Carello's constitutional rights
took precedence over the officers' desire to conduct an
administrative search of the probationer's hotel room.
Thus, the officers needed to obtain a search warrant.
Further, the State stipulated that the marijuana police found
in Carello's car was not seized as the result of a proper