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State v. Murray

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

November 20, 2017


          Nathan D. Barillo, Esquire Office of the Attorney General Attorney for the State of Delaware.

          A. Dale Bowers, Esquire Caren L. Sydnor, Esquire Attorneys for the Defendant.


          JOHN K. WELCH, JUDGE


         On November 27, 2016, Defendant Dartanya Murray ("Defendant") was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence ("DUI"), in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4177; Leaving the Scene of a Property Collision Accident, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4201(a); Driving While Suspended or Revoked, in violation of 21 Del. C. §2756(a); Failure to Provide Information at Collision Scene Resulting in Property Damage, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4201(b); Out-of-State Vehicle - Failure to Have Minimum Insurance, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 2118(b); Driving in Improper Lane and Direction, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4126(a)(3); Failure to Have Two Lighted Lamps Displayed, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4352(a); and Failure to Report a Collision Involving Alcohol or Drugs, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4203(a)(3). On December 28, 2016, Defendant entered a plea of not guilty.

         On March 24, 2017, Defendant moved to suppress the results of her blood alcohol reading and statements she made to police officers while in the hospital. The Defendant raised three grounds for suppression: 1) the officer failed to establish probable cause within the four-corners of the search warrant affidavit; 2) there are insufficient facts to establish probable cause to support the issuance of the search warrant when certain lines are stricken from the affidavit as required under Franks v. Delaware;[1] and 3) her statements to police officers while she was in the hospital were not knowingly and intelligently made.[2]

         On July 18, 2017, the Court heard the Motion to Suppress ("Motion"). Following the hearing, the Court reserved its decision on the Motion and ordered supplemental briefing. On August 8, 2017, the State filed its Response to Defendant's Motion to Suppress ("State's Response").[3] And, on September 27, 2017, Defendant filed her Reply Brief on Defendant's Motion to Suppress ("Defendant's Reply").[4] This is the Court's Final Decision and Order on the Defendant's Motion to Suppress.

         II. FACTS

         On November 27, 2016, at approximately 1:31 a.m., Trooper First Class Daniel B. Galiani ("Trooper Galiani"), [5] Trooper First Class Chase A. Lawson ("Trooper Lawson"), [6] and Trooper First Class Earl Marchione ("Trooper Marchione"), [7] of the Delaware State Police Troop One, responded to a call regarding a motor vehicle accident on 1-495 southbound, near the Edgemoor Road exit.

         A. Testimony of Trooper First Class Galiani

         When Trooper Galiani arrived on the scene at approximately 1:40 a.m., he saw three vehicles that had sustained extensive front-end damage. Trooper Galiani testified that one of the vehicles was stationary, facing northbound in an 1-495 southbound lane.[8] Trooper Galiani testified that this vehicle ("the stationary vehicle") was owned by Defendant and he believed it had been "hit multiple times."[9] When the State asked Trooper Galiani if he knew "how that vehicle ended up facing the wrong way, " he testified that he did not know. He further testified that Defendant was not at the scene when he arrived.

         Trooper Galiani spoke with the operators of the vehicles who were present at the accident scene. One operator stated that while he was driving he came upon a stationary vehicle without lights on and, in attempting to avoid the stationary vehicle, he hit his brakes, swerving into a vehicle in another lane which then forced his vehicle to collide with the stationary vehicle. After drafting an accident exchange report, Trooper Galiani investigated the stationary vehicle and found blood on the seat, dashboard, and windshield of the passenger side of the vehicle. He also observed a large crack in the windshield on the passenger side of the vehicle; he did not observe a crack in the driver side window. Trooper Galiani "could not recall" whether he found a registration card or insurance in the stationary vehicle.[10]

         While at the scene of the accident, the Troopers were advised by dispatch that two individuals were dropped off earlier at Wilmington Hospital Emergency Room for treatment of "serious injuries" sustained from a motor vehicle accident. These individuals were identified as Defendant and Edmond Triplett ("Mr. Triplett"). Trooper Galiani testified that he believed an innocent bystander transported Defendant and Mr. Triplett to the emergency room, but he was unsure exactly how they had arrived at the hospital. He further testified that neither Defendant nor Mr. Triplett reported the accident.

         Troopers Lawson and Marchioni responded to the hospital, while Trooper Galiani remained at the scene. Trooper Galiani testified that Trooper Lawson informed him that when Trooper Lawson arrived at the hospital and spoke with Mr. Triplett, Mr. Triplett's head was bleeding, and he told Trooper Lawson that Defendant had been driving. Trooper Lawson then interviewed Defendant, who was suffering from an ankle injury and chest pain, who informed him that she was traveling home from her sister's birthday party in Philadelphia where she had been drinking. Trooper Lawson further informed Trooper Galiani that Defendant admitted to driving the stationary vehicle, Trooper Lawson could smell the "faint amount of alcohol on her breath, " and described her eyes as glassy and bloodshot.

         After speaking with Trooper Lawson, Trooper Galiani traveled to Troop One to prepare a Blood Search Warrant Affidavit (the "affidavit"); Trooper Galiani testified that he included all of Trooper Lawson's statements to him in the affidavit, including the odor of alcohol.[11] A search warrant was signed by a magistrate of the Justice of the Peace Court and the Troop One phlebotomist traveled with Trooper Galiani to the hospital to draw Defendant's blood. At approximately 3:50 a.m., Trooper Galiani testified that he smelled a "very faint smell of alcohol" in Defendant's hospital room. And, at approximately 3:55 a.m., Defendant's blood was drawn.[12]Defendant's blood draw registered a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.05. Following the test, Defendant was arrested and charged.

         B. Testimony of Trooper First Class Lawson

         Trooper Lawson testified that he was dispatched to a possible motor vehicle collision. Upon arriving at the scene, he observed several vehicles and individuals on 1-495 southbound. He testified that he observed a large amount of blood in the stationary vehicle, which he described as resting in the far-left-hand 1-495 southbound lane. While investigating the collision, Trooper Lawson was informed by Wilmington Hospital that two individuals had arrived with severe injuries which could be consistent with a motor vehicle collision. When Trooper Lawson arrived, hospital personnel informed him that the two individuals had admitted to being involved in a motor vehicle accident on 1-495. Trooper Lawson also testified that the innocent bystander who transported them to the hospital confirmed that he had picked up two individuals who had been involved in a motor vehicle collision on 1-495, as one of the individuals had severe head injuries. Trooper Lawson testified that the individuals transported to Wilmington Hospital were Mr. Triplett and Defendant.

         At approximately 2:15 a.m., Trooper Lawson testified that he interviewed Defendant and Mr. Triplett.[13] Trooper Lawson testified that Mr. Triplett suffered severe injuries to his head- multiple lacerations and severe bleeding. He stated that Mr. Triplett informed him that Mr. Triplett was the front seat passenger of a vehicle involved in a motor vehicle collision.[14] Trooper Lawson testified that Mr. Triplett never told him who was driving the vehicle.

         During Trooper Lawson's interview of Defendant, Defendant informed him that she and Mr. Triplett were traveling home from her sister's birthday party in the Philadelphia area, where Defendant had been drinking. Trooper Lawson described Defendant as uncooperative, noticed that Defendant's eyes were "glassy and bloodshot, " and stated that he could smell alcohol in Defendant's hospital room approximately two to three feet away from her. Trooper Lawson testified that Defendant did not inform him who was driving the stationary vehicle. He also testified that the medical personnel informed him that Defendant was complaining of ankle pain and had injuries to one of her shoulders consistent with wearing a seatbelt. Trooper Lawson did not perform any field sobriety tests on Defendant due to her injuries.


         In Defendant's Motion, she moves to suppress the results of the blood test on two grounds: (1) that Trooper Galiani's affidavit did not establish probable cause within its four-corners; and (2) that Trooper Galiani's affidavit contained statements that recklessly disregarded the truth.[15]Additionally, in Defendant's Motion, she moved to suppress some of her statements to Trooper Lawson at Wilmington Hospital because no Miranda warnings were given; however, in Defendant's Reply brief, she deems her Miranda argument moot.[16] Based on the following analysis, the Court finds that the evidentiary results obtained from the blood draw should be excluded.[17]

         Trooper Galiani's affidavit fails to establish probable cause. The "intrusive" nature of a blood draw requires a search warrant in order to extract the blood, unless a recognized exception to the warrant requirement applies.[18] Both the United States Constitution and Delaware Constitution requires a showing of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant.[19] Further, the General Assembly has codified "statutory requirements" in support of the Delaware Constitution's probable cause provision.[20] 11 Del. C. § 2306 states:

The application or complaint for a search warrant shall be in writing, signed by the complainant and verified by oath or affirmation. It shall designate the house, place, conveyance or person to be searched and the owner or occupant thereof (if any), and shall describe the things or persons sought as particularly as may be, and shall substantially allege the cause for which the search is made or the offense committed by or in relation to the persons or things searched for, and shall state that the complainant suspects that such persons or things are concealed in the house, place, conveyance or person designated and shall recite the facts upon which such suspicion is founded.[21]

Likewise, 11 Del. C. § 2307 states:

If the judge, justice of the peace or other magistrate finds that the facts recited in the complaint constitute probable cause for the search, that person may direct a warrant to any proper officer or to any other person by name for service. The warrant shall designate the house, place, conveyance or person to be searched, and shall describe the things or persons sought as particularly as possible.[22]

         The Delaware Supreme Court has held that sections 2306 and 2307 "contemplate a 'four-corners' test for probable cause."[23] Hence, an "affidavit in support of a search warrant must set forth facts adequate for a judicial officer to form a reasonable belief that an offense has been committed. . . ."[24] Regarding a charge of driving under the influence, the magistrate must find "probable cause to believe that Defendant's blood would yield evidence of consumption of alcohol beyond the legal limit, or sufficient alcohol content to support a charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol."[25] Recently, the Delaware Supreme Court re-articulated a magistrate's duties in evaluating the affidavit:

The magistrate may only consider the information contained within the four corners of the affidavit. "[A] neutral and detached magistrate may draw reasonable inferences from the factual allegations in the affidavit." . . . The officer is "only required to present facts which suggest, when those facts are viewed under the totality of the circumstances, that there is a fair probability that the defendant has committed a crime." The affidavit need not rule out potentially innocent explanations for a fact. Probable cause may be found so long as the facts presented in the affidavit are "sufficient in themselves to warrant a [person] of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed."[26]

         In determining whether probable cause exists to obtain a search warrant, Delaware courts apply a "totality of the circumstances" test.[27]

When reviewing the magistrate's decision, the Superior has cautioned:
[T]his Court is required to give "great deference" to a magistrate's determination of probable cause and the review should not "take the form of a de novo review." The reviewing court, however, must determine whether the magistrate's decision "reflects a proper analysis of the totality of the circumstances." Affidavits of probable cause are subject to "much less rigorous standards than those governing the admissibility of evidence at trial ..." Our Supreme Court has "eschewed a 'hypertechnical' approach to reviewing a search warrant affidavit."[28]

         While the Delaware Supreme Court has emphasized the deference afforded to the magistrate, it has also advised that there must be a "logical deductive basis" for the neutral magistrate's decision.[29] Importantly, "[u]nlike in a challenge of a warrantless seizure, in a motion to suppress challenging the validity of a search warrant, the defendant bears the burden of proving that the challenged search or seizure was unlawful."[30]

         The affidavit that Trooper Galiani submitted to the Justice of the Peace Court ...

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