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State v. Stevens

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

June 8, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
DENNIS L. STEVENS, Defendant.

          Submitted: May 23, 2017

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence and Dismiss Charges. Summarily denied.

          Stephen E. Smith, Esquire, Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State of Delaware.

          James M. Stiller, Jr., Esquire of Schwartz & Schwartz, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the Defendant.

          ORDER

          William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge

          Before the Court is a motion to suppress filed by the Defendant, Dennis L. Stevens. In his motion, Mr. Stevens seeks to suppress "any and all evidence of wrongdoing" acquired by law enforcement following the detention of Mr. Stevens pursuant to a traffic stop occurring on December 1, 2016.

         FACTS

         Mr. Stevens stands accused of Resisting Arrest with Force or Violence, Disregarding a Police Officer's Signal, Improper Turn, Driving while License Suspended or Revoked, Failure to Have Insurance Identification in Possession, Failure to Have Registration Card in Possession, Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign, Reckless Endangering in the Second Degree, and Assault in the Second Degree.

         The facts are fairly straight forward. On December 1, 2016, Officer Donaldson, a K-9 handler, was on patrol with his K-9 partner "Ripper" and Probation and Parole Officer David Angelo, both officers were assigned to the Governors Task Force of Kent County. At around 3 p.m., Corporal Donaldson saw Mr. Stevens's vehicle turn without utilizing its turn signal. Soon thereafter, Corporal Donaldson initiated a traffic stop.

         Corporal Donaldson then approached Mr. Stevens's vehicle and asked to see his driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Mr. Stevens then began to search through his car for these documents, but was unable to produce them to Corporal Donaldson. When Corporal Donaldson again requested Mr. Stevens' driver's license, Mr. Stevens started his vehicle and fled. Returning to his patrol vehicle, Corporal Donaldson, accompanied by Officer Angelo, gave pursuit. While Fleeing, officers observed Mr. Stevens violated numerous traffic laws, including failing to stop at a stop sign, and failing to use his turn signal. Soon thereafter, Mr. Stevens abruptly stopped his vehicle and Corporal Donaldson's vehicle struck Mr. Stevens's vehicle from the rear. Mr. Stevens then put his vehicle in reverse and backed up into Corporal Donaldson's vehicle, ramming it twice.

         Mr. Stevens exited his vehicle and fled on foot. Officers gave Mr. Stevens verbal commands to stop, but Mr. Stevens continued running. Officer Angelo pursued on foot while Corporal Donaldson released his K-P partner "Ripper" to chase down Mr. Stevens. Officer Angelo overtook Mr. Stevens, tackling him to the ground. "Ripper" then overtook the two men, and, in the confusion, attacked and injured both Officer Angelo and Mr. Stevens.

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Mr. Stevens argues that the traffic stop in this case was illegal, as law enforcement lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop against Mr. Stevens. Further, Mr. Stevens asserts that the real reason for the traffic stop was Corporal Donaldson's pretextual motivations.

         The State responds that the traffic stop was validly initiated: Mr. Stevens was seen committing a traffic violation. The State also argues that Corporal Donaldson's subjective motivations are irrelevant to the validity of the traffic stop, and in any case, ...


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