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Daniels v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 28, 2017

SHAWN DANIELS, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: May 17, 2017

         Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID No. 1509003025 (N)

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.


         On this 28th day of June 2017, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears that:

         (1) Appellant, Shawn Daniels, appeals from the Superior Court's denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. He makes one claim on appeal. He contends that the Superior Court abused its discretion in denying his motion because the court permitted conflicted counsel to represent him when the motion was presented. For the reasons which follow, we reject his contention.

         (2) In August of 2015, two detectives with the Wilmington Police Department "received information from a past proven reliable confidential informant" that Daniels and his brother were selling heroin out of 812 West 7th Street in the city of Wilmington.[1] The informant told the detectives that he/she had purchased heroin on a regular basis from Daniels and his brother in the past. The informant also knew that Daniels and his brother possessed firearms.

         (3) In September of 2015, the detectives used a confidential informant to purchase illegal drugs from Daniels and his brother. The detectives also learned that Daniels was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to several prior felony convictions. They also learned that Daniels possessed and drove a teal Mercury Grand Marquis.

         (4) The detectives applied for and received a search warrant for the 812 West 7th Street residence. When they executed the warrant, they found U.S. currency, 350 bags of heroin, marijuana, a digital scale and small baggies associated with the packaging and sale of drugs, a firearm magazine clip, and receipts from Wal-Mart for ammunition. The detectives then obtained a search warrant for the Grand Marquis in which they found 112 bags of heroin, multiple papers belonging to Daniels, and a stolen .45 caliber firearm.

         (5) Daniels was then arrested and charged with several drug and firearm offenses. While in custody after his arrest, Daniels admitted that he used the Grand Marquis on a daily basis and that the heroin and firearm found in the car belonged to him.

         (6) Subsequent to his indictment, Daniels filed a motion to suppress the drugs and firearm which were the subject of the prosecution. The Superior Court denied the motion.

         (7) At final case review, Daniels and the State entered into a plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited in violation of 11 Del. C. § 1448. In the agreement, the State informed Daniels that it would seek to have him sentenced as an habitual offender pursuant to 11 Del C. § 4214(a). In the agreement, Daniels acknowledged that he was eligible for sentencing as an habitual offender. Daniels then entered his plea of guilty, and during a very thorough plea colloquy, stated that he recognized and understood that he was eligible for sentencing as an habitual offender pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4214(a).

         (8) During the plea colloquy, Daniels also acknowledged that he was waiving all trial and appellate rights by entering the plea. The Superior Court judge asked: "Do you understand because you're pleading guilty you're giving up your trial rights and your constitutional rights associated with trial and appeal? I want you to look at those very carefully. They're numbered 1 through 7. The paper should be in front of you."[2] Daniels responded, "Yes, ma'am."[3] The court further clarified by stating "[y]ou reviewed all those rights and wish to give up those rights and enter a plea on this charge, rather than go forward to trial on all the charges in the indictment; is that correct"?[4] Daniels responded, "Yes, ma'am."[5] At the close of the plea colloquy, the court again asked Daniels to look at the plea form "very carefully" and "to make certain that [he] read every question carefully, understood each question, and answered each question truthfully."[6] Daniels again said, "Yes, ma'am."[7] The plea form referred to was a truth-in-sentencing guilty plea form signed by Daniels. It asked, in pertinent part: "Do you understand that because you are pleading guilty you will not have a trial, and you therefore waive (give up) your constitutional rights: ... to appeal, if convicted, to the Delaware Supreme Court?"[8] Daniels answered this question in the affirmative.

         (9) After entry of the plea but before sentencing, Daniels moved to withdraw his plea pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 32(d). He alleged that "he did not understand that entering the guilty plea would waive his appeal rights, " and he wished to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.[9] In the same motion, Daniels' counsel moved to withdraw as counsel. Counsel stated that he initially advised Daniels that he could appeal the denial of the motion to suppress, but when the decision was made to accept the plea agreement, "[u]ndersigned counsel believed Daniels understood that he was waiving his right to appeal when he completed and executed the [truth-in-sentencing] form."[10]

         (10) At the hearing on Daniels' motion to withdraw his guilty plea and his attorney's motion to ...

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