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Sutton v. State
Supreme Court of Delaware
November 2, 2017
KAMIZA SUTTON, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.
Submitted: September 27, 2017
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID No.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.
T. VAUGHN, JR. JUSTICE.
2nd day of November 2017, upon consideration of
the parties' briefs and the record of the case, it
1. The Appellant, Kamiza Sutton, appeals from a Superior
Court jury verdict finding her guilty of Driving Under the
Influence. She contends that her arrest, made by the use of
radar which detected her driving in excess of the speed
limit, violated 21 Del. C. § 701(e). The
statute provides, in pertinent part, that "[n]o . . .
town . . . police department shall operate any speed
enforcement equipment outside of its corporate limits . .
." The Superior Court ruled that her arrest did not
violate the statute. We agree and affirm.
2. On October 31, 2015, Patrolman Bryan of the Laurel Police
Department parked his patrol vehicle on what is known as the
Laurel water tower property. The water tower property lies on
the southeast side of Route 9 and is just inside Laurel's
corporate limits. Patrolman Bryan began using radar to check
the speed of vehicles as they drove into town on Route 9. The
traffic toward which the radar was pointed was northeast of
Patrolman Bryan, traveling in his direction. The area across
the road from the water tower is not in Laurel's
corporate limits. Although the area abutting Route 9 toward
which the radar equipment was pointed included an area within
town limits, most of the area and all of the right-of-way of
Route 9 within the radar beam were outside the town limits.
At approximately 12:27 a.m., Patrolman Bryan clocked a gray
Toyota Camry heading into Laurel going fifty-nine miles per
hour in a forty mile per hour zone. The Camry was not within
the limits of Laurel when Patrolman Bryan clocked its speed.
Patrolman Bryan performed a traffic stop, leading to the
arrest of Sutton for Driving Under the Influence.
3. Sutton filed a motion to suppress evidence which
challenged the validity of the traffic stop on the ground
that the arrest violated 21 Del. C. § 701(e),
which, as previously mentioned, prohibits a municipal officer
from operating speed enforcement equipment outside corporate
limits. The Superior Court denied the motion to suppress.
4. Sutton did not argue in Superior Court and does not argue
in this Court that the officer lacked jurisdiction to arrest
her because she was outside town limits when her speeding was
observed. Therefore, that issue, if it is an issue, is not
5. She makes one argument on appeal. She contends only that
21 Del. C. § 701(e) prohibits the police
officers of municipalities, towns or cities from monitoring
the speed of cars outside of town limits, even when the
officer is monitoring from within municipal, town or city
boundaries. That statute reads in full: "No municipal,
town or city police department shall operate any speed
enforcement equipment outside of its corporate limits,
notwithstanding any municipal charter provision or provision
of this Code to the contrary." Sutton asserts that
Patrolman Bryan was operating speed enforcement equipment
outside of the Town of Laurel's corporate limits, making
her stop unlawful. She argues that if the target of the radar
is outside town limits, the operation of the speed
enforcement equipment occurs outside town limits.
6. Because the proper construction of a statute is a question
of law, the standard of review is de
novo. "The goal of statutory construction
is to determine and give effect to legislative
intent." "If a statute is unambiguous, there
is no need for judicial interpretation, and the plain meaning
of the statutory language controls.""A statute is
ambiguous if 'it is reasonably susceptible of different
conclusions or interpretations' or 'if a literal
reading of the statute would lead to an unreasonable or
absurd result not contemplated by the
7. Here, 21 Del. C. § 701(e) is unambiguous
because the plain meaning of the statute is clear.
Dictionaries define the word "operate" as, "to
perform a function"and to "control the functioning of
(a machine, process or system)." Patrolman Bryan was
controlling his speed detection equipment from within
Laurel's corporate limits. The statute requires only that
the police operate the speed enforcement equipment
within the town's boundaries. There is nothing in the
statute that would require the target of the speed
enforcement equipment also to be within the boundaries of the
town. Accordingly, Patrolman Bryan was acting within the
bounds created by 21 Del. C. § 701(e) when he
ascertained Sutton's speed and subsequently pulled her
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the judgment of the ...
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