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State v. Jenkins

Superior Court of Delaware

February 1, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
JACQUEZ JENKINS, Defendant.

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress GRANTED

          ORDER

          John A. Parkins, Jr. Superior Court Judge

         Defendant Jacquez Jenkins was indicted on charges of Drug Dealing, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized from his person and vehicle, which the State opposes. The Court finds as follows:

         1. In March 2017, Detective Nicholas Beinke of the New Castle County Police Department received an anonymous tip regarding possible drug activity at 420 Rochelle Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware 19804. Specifically, the anonymous tip indicated that Anthony Quattrociocchi, a resident at 420 Rochelle Avenue, was involved in drug activity at that address.

         2. On March 16, 2017, Detective Beinke conducted surveillance of the Rochelle Avenue residence. Around 4:15 p.m. that afternoon he saw a car pull into the driveway. Quattrociocchi exited the residence and entered the passenger seat of the car, where he remained for approximately 30 seconds before getting out and walking back into the residence.

         3. Detective Beinke concluded that this behavior was consistent with a drug transaction, and followed the vehicle after it left the Rochelle Avenue residence. Detective Beinke observed the vehicle fail to signal at least 300 feet in advance of a turn. Because Detective Beinke was working in an undercover capacity, he relayed the information to the assisting mobile enforcement team. Officer Matthew Arnold then initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle on Boxwood Road before Newport Gap Pike.

         4. Officer Arnold approached Defendant's driver side window of the car, and a second officer, Officer Feliciano approached the passenger side window. Officer Arnold requested Defendant's driver's license and asked Jenkins where he was coming from. Defendant provided his license and stated that he was coming from a friend's house in the neighborhood behind him. While speaking with Defendant, Officer Arnold saw an orange pill bottle in the center cup holder that appeared to have its label removed, which he believed constituted drug paraphernalia. Based on the information relayed to him by Detective Beinke and on his own observation of the pill bottle, Officer Arnold believed he had probable cause to detain and search Defendant and Defendant's vehicle in a drug investigation.

         5. Officer Arnold removed Jenkins from the car, placed him in handcuffs, and searched him. The detective found $80.00, but no contraband, in Defendant's jacket pocket. Officer Arnold asked Defendant if there was anything illegal in the car, and Defendant said that his registered pistol was in the trunk. Officer Arnold also asked Defendant what was in the orange pill bottle. Defendant replied that the pill bottle contained coin change.

         6. After Officer Arnold finished searching Defendant, Defendant was taken to a patrol car. Officer Feliciano pulled Officer Arnold aside and said, "Hey, you got a rubber band and a tear-off right on the passenger floorboard." He pointed through the driver side window to show Officer Arnold where the rubber band was. Officer Arnold acknowledged seeing the rubber band.[1]

         7. Officer Arnold and other officers then searched Jenkins' vehicle without his consent. They quickly found that the pill bottle in fact contained only change. Still, they extended the search to the trunk where they found 66 bags of heroin, two cell phones, a handgun, and a loaded magazine.

          8. Defendant was subsequently charged with Drug Dealing, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited.

         9. On August 28, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to suppress, contending that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest Defendant and to search his person and his vehicle. The State filed a response on September 15, 2017, arguing that there was probable cause based on the anonymous tip about drug activity at 420 Rochelle Avenue, Detective Beinke's observation of possible drug transaction, the orange pill bottle, and the black rubber band.

         10. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress on October 2, 2017. At the hearing, the Court found that the officers had probable cause to conduct a traffic stop based on Defendant's failure to signal 300 feet before a turn.[2]However, the Court reserved decision on the issue of whether there was probable cause to search the vehicle. The Court asked for supplemental briefing from the parties on that issue.

          11. In order to conduct a warrantless search of an automobile, police officers must have probable cause to believe that it contains contraband or evidence.[3] Probable cause is more than suspicion, but less than the sufficient evidence required to convict.[4] It "exists when the facts and circumstances ... within [the officers'] knowledge ... [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in ...


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