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State v. Harris

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

March 12, 2018


          Submitted: January 8, 2018

          Matthew Hicks, Esquire Deputy Attorney General Attorney for the State of Delaware

          Joseph Hurley, Esquire Attorney At Law Attorney for Defendant




         On February 25, 2014, Duevorn Harris ("Defendant") was arrested and charged with the offenses of Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI) in violation of 21 Del. C. §4177, Failure to Stop at a Red Light in violation of 21 Del. C. §4108(a)(3)(a), and Failure to Obtain Residence License within Sixty (60) days in violation of 21 Del. C. §2704(a). Defendant failed to appear for his arraignment on May 9, 2014, after which a warrant was issued and subsequently returned on August 25, 2014. At the September 16, 2014 arraignment, the Defendant entered a plea of not guilty and the matter was scheduled for case review on October 10, 2014, where Defendant elected a jury trial but afterward elected to participate in the DUI Treatment Court Program, ("DUI Program"). Thereafter, the case was rescheduled several times for jury trial.

         On January 30, 2015, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress which was withdrawn on March 15, 2016. On May 19, 2017, Defendant entered a plea to DUI 2nd Offense and was sentenced pursuant to 21 Del. C. §4177(d)(2), into the DUI Program in the Court of Common Pleas. When Defendant was interviewed by the Probation Intake office it was discovered that Defendant had relocated to Kent County. This change in residence rendered him ineligible for the New Castle County DUI Program. On June 23, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Withdraw his Plea and Application for admission to the DUI Program which was granted. The case was restored to the jury trial calendar.

         On November 14, 2017, before trial commenced, Defendant moved for reconsideration of his decision for entry into the DUI Program which was denied. Defendant waived his right to a trial by jury and the matter proceeded with a bench trial.

          The facts which led to Defendant's arrest are the following. Delaware State Trooper Austin Andres ("Andres") testified he was on patrol the night of February 25, 2014 in Newark, Delaware when he observed a vehicle drive through a red light. Andres pulled the vehicle over which was driven by Defendant. Andres testified he detected an odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, the Defendant's eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and his speech was slurred.

         Based on these suspicions, Andres had Defendant perform field sobriety tests. During the field sobriety tests, Defendant was unable to maintain his balance and continued to drop his arms and foot. In accordance with his training and experience, Andres concluded Defendant was under the influence of alcohol. Subsequently, Defendant was taken into custody and transported to Troop 2 where Andres administered an Intoxilyzer test. The test revealed a Blood Alcohol Content of .163. Thereafter, Defendant was arrested and charged with the above offenses

         At the beginning of trial, Defense counsel stipulated that the officer had reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the vehicle, and that the officer had probable cause to arrest the Defendant. Defense counsel further stipulated the Intoxilyzer machine was properly calibrated, the calibration logs were accurate, and the Intoxilyzer card was proper. During trial, the State admitted three (3) Exhibits. Andres testified he is employed as a Trooper with the Delaware State Police and received DUI training as part of his employment. Andres further testified that on February 25, 2014, he observed Defendant proceed through a red light and when he pulled him over, he detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from Defendant's vehicle, his eyes were bloodshot and glassy and the Defendant's speech was slurred. In addition, Andres testified he administered the field tests according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) standards and based on the results and his observations, he arrested the Defendant for suspicion of DUI and transported him to Troop 2.

         During cross-examination, Defense counsel questioned Andres regarding his recollection of the Defendant since the arrest occurred around three-and-a-half years ago. Defense counsel also questioned Andres as to his procedure in administering the field sobriety tests of Defendant. On redirect, Andres testified that Defendant was swaying and held onto the door as he exited his vehicle. Andres further testified that Defendant stated he understood the instructions of the field sobriety tests, though he started the tests before instructed. Andres also testified during the field sobriety tests, Defendant was unable to keep his balance.

         While at Troop 2, Andres testified the Defendant was observed for twenty (20) minutes before he administered the Intoxilyzer test which indicated a Blood Alcohol Content of .163.[1] Andres testified he used his cell phone for the time to start the twenty (20) minute observation period, which began at 0312 hours, and used the Intoxilyzer machine to indicate the time to end the observation period, which was at 0346 hours. Andres further testified the Defendant was subjected to the Intoxilyzer test within one (1) hour after the Defendant was seen in control of his vehicle. Moreover, the State admitted calibration checks of the Intoxilyzer machine before and after the Defendant's test.[2] Defense counsel objected to Andres testifying to the procedure of how the Intoxily2er calibrations were conducted.

         During closing arguments, the Court questioned the defense's position since at the beginning of the trial, Defendant stipulated to the Intoxilyzer test and is subsequently arguing the test involved an invalid protocol. Defendant contended that the stipulation to the Intoxilyzer calibrations does not include the procedures of how the testing was performed. The Court stated that stipulating to the Intoxilyzer card indicates you stipulate to the procedure and the results, therefore, questioning the subsequent results is inconsistent. Lastly, Defense counsel stated he would never stipulate to an Intoxilyzer ...

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