Submitted: April 12, 2017
Jeffrey J Clark Judge.
Kelly L. Patrick (hereinafter "Ms. Patrick") was
arrested for Drug Dealing, three separate weapon offenses,
and misdemeanor Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Ms. Patrick
argues that drug and weapons evidence seized from a search of
an automobile on August 28, 2016 should be suppressed because
the Dover Police effected a Terry stop without
reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the detention.
Specifically, she argues that (1) under the circumstances of
this case, a seizure took place at the time of first contact
between the police and her; and (2) that under the totality
of the circumstances, the limited seizure was not justified
at that point. The State counters that there were sufficient
facts available and known to the officers to justify the
detention. Furthermore, the State argues that since Ms.
Patrick had two outstanding capiases for missed Court
appearances at the time of her arrest, the inevitable
discovery doctrine makes harmless any allegedly premature
PRESENTED AT THE SUPPRESSION HEARING
evidence relevant to this decision was presented on April 12,
2017, at a suppression hearing by the State's sole
witness, Dover Police Officer Barrett. Officer Barrett
testified that while working in the area of 38 North
Governor's Avenue in Dover on August 28, 2016, his
attention was directed toward Ms. Patrick and her car.
According to Officer Barrett, the area at issue was a high
crime, open air drug market. He testified that Probation
Officer Porter, who himself was in a separate vehicle, first
saw Ms. Patrick's car in an alley. He then saw a male
approach Ms. Patrick's car and then leave it quickly by
cutting through an adjacent yard. Thereafter, when passing
by, Officer Porter saw Ms. Patrick, in the car's
driver's seat, duck down in an apparent effort to avoid
being seen. At that point, Officer Porter contacted Officers
Barrett and Cunningham from the Dover Police Department.
Barrett testified that when he arrived, the hood of the
vehicle was raised, and it was parked in a position blocking
a garage in an alley way in front of "no parking"
signs. At that point, the marked police car and an unmarked
police car pulled into the alley. It is at that point that
Ms. Patrick alleges a Terry stop occurred, although
there was no evidence that the marked patrol car's
emergency equipment was activated. Next, Officer Barrett
approached a man who was working on the vehicle, with the
hood up, while Ms. Patrick remained in the driver's seat.
The man indicated to Officer Barrett that he was a mechanic,
who worked on houses. The man appeared nervous and was
attempting to turn a phillips head screw in the vehicle with
a pair of pliers.
only other facts relevant to this decision include that upon
questioning and an identification check, Officer Cunningham
learned that Ms. Patrick had two outstanding capiases. Also,
in plain view on one of the seats in the vehicle were a
digital scale, loose money, and numerous plastic baggies.
motion to suppress based on a warrantless search and seizure,
the burden is on the State to justify that the search and
seizure comply with the rights guaranteed by the United
States Constitution, the Delaware Constitution, and Delaware
statutory law. At a suppression hearing, the presiding
judge sits as the trier of fact and evaluates witness
credibility. Strict rules of evidence do not apply in a
suppression hearing. In evaluating either reasonable,
articulable suspicion, or probable cause, hearsay is
well settled that the benchmark, in Delaware, for determining
whether there has been a seizure is more inclusive than that
required by the United States Constitution alone. Namely,
pursuant to Article 1, Section 6 of the Delaware
Constitution, the standard is whether a reasonable person in
a defendant's position would have believed that he or she
was free to ignore the officer's instructions and walk
away. An initial contact with police, based on
the surrounding circumstances, can potentially amount to a
detention. At the point of the detention, in
determining the legality of a Terry stop, the Court
must determine whether the totality of the circumstances
provide a reasonable, articulable suspicion that Ms. Patrick
was engaged in criminal activity.
issue in this case is whether at the time the two police
vehicles turned into the alley and then stopped, the officers
had facts available to them that provided reasonable,
articulable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. The
Court finds that the facts presented at the suppression
hearing through the first hand observations of Officer
Barrett established that the area at issue was a high crime
area, and the parked vehicle occupied by Ms. Patrick blocked
a garage door, and sat directly in front of "no
through testimony referencing hearsay, another officer had
observed an individual make a short stop at the car before
quickly leaving, by cutting through a neighboring yard. In
the testifying officer's training and experience, he
believed such action to be consistent with a drug sale.
Furthermore, through testimony constituting hearsay, the
driver of the vehicle, Ms. Patrick, (before the involvement
of Officer Barrett) was seen ducking to avoid detection.
These facts combined, when evaluated under the totality of
the circumstances, provided more than a ...