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State v. Kamwani

Superior Court of Delaware

May 31, 2018


          Submitted: May 18, 2018

         Upon Defendant Conrad Kamwani's Motion to Suppress DENIED

          Matthew F. Hicks Deputy Attorney General State of Delaware Department of Justice Attorney for State of Delaware.

          Saagar B. Shah, Esquire Attorney for Conrad Kamwani.

          Eric M. Davis, Judge.

         Defendant Conrad Kamwani was arrested and charged with the offense of driving under the influence ("DUI") on December 3, 2017. Mr. Kamwani thereafter filed a Motion to Suppress (the "Motion") all evidence at trial, including the results of a blood draw taken from Mr. Kamwani to determine his blood alcohol concentration. The State opposed the Motion. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on May 11, 2018 (the "Hearing"). At the end of the Hearing, the Court asked the parties to submit additional written argument on the issue of reasonable articulable suspicion. Mr. Kamwani's counsel filed his letter brief ("Def. Supplement") on May 15, 2018, and the State submitted its letter brief ("State Supplement") on May 18, 2018.

         At the Hearing and in the Def. Supplement, Mr. Kamwani concedes Mr. Kamwani cannot factually demonstrate that the field sobriety tests should be suppressed due to lack of voluntariness. Mr. Kamwani also concedes that, even if the HGN field sobriety test were suppressed, the Justice of the Peace Judge had ample evidence to support a finding that probable cause existed to issue a warrant to obtain a sample of Mr. Kamwani's blood for suspicion of committing a DUI. Mr. Kamwani continues to argue that Pfc. Shubra of the Delaware River and Bay Authority Police lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to extend Mr. Kamwani's traffic stop, have Mr. Kamwani exit his car and perform field sobriety tests.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that reasonable articulable suspicion supported Officer Shubra's actions on December 3, 2017. Accordingly, the Motion is DENIED.


         On December 3, 2017, Mr. Kamwani drove on John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway and across the Delaware Memorial Bridge at approximately 2:20 am. Officer Shubra was on routine patrol in a marked car. Officer Shubra had parked on the New Jersey side of the bridge and was watching traffic coming from New Jersey going to Delaware. Officer Shubra noticed Mr. Kamwani speed past at 85 mph in a 50 mph zone. Officer Shubra entered traffic and pursued Mr. Kamwani. While following Mr. Kamwani's car, Officer Shubra's radar recorded Mr. Kamwani's speed in excess of 95 mph.

         After crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Officer Shubra activated his emergency lights and pulled behind Mr. Kamwani. Mr. Kamwani slowed his vehicle and almost came to a complete stop on the highway. Officer Shubra then activated his siren and Mr. Kamwani moved his car to the shoulder of the highway and stopped.

         Officer Shubra approached the vehicle. Officer Shubra noticed that Mr. Kamwani had only partially rolled down his window. In addition, Officer Shubra testified that Mr. Kamwani failed to make eye contact and provided "short, terse and direct answers" to Officer Shubra's questions. Officer Shubra also stated that Mr. Kamwani's speech trailed off and needed to repeat himself so that Officer Shubra could understand the answers.

         Mr. Kamwani cooperated with Officer Shubra. Although licensed, Mr. Kamwani did not have his driver's license in his possession. Officer Shubra returned to his marked vehicle and did a background check on Mr. Kamwani. While performing this check, Officer Shubra discovered that Mr. Kamwani has previous convictions for DUIs.

         Upon returning to Mr. Kamwani, Officer Shubra asked Mr. Kamwani to step out of his vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. Specifically, Officer Shubra said: "Alright Conrad, can you do me a favor and step out for me? I want to talk to you out here. We're going to run some tests and make sure you're OK to drive home."[2] When Mr. Kamwani exited the vehicle, Officer Shubra smelled alcohol coming from Mr. Kamwani. Officer Shubra testified that Mr. Kamwani's eyes appeared glassy.

         Officer Shubra conducted the field sobriety tests. Mr. Kamwani exhibited 6 out of 6 clues of intoxication on the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus ("HGN") test.[3] On the walk and turn test, Mr. Kamwani exhibited 2 out of 8 possible clues of intoxication. Mr. Kamwani did not exhibit any possible clues of intoxication during the One Leg Stand test.

         Officer Shubra asked Mr. Kamwani if he would take a Portable Breath Test ("PBT"). Officer Shubra testified that he had a calibrated PBT and that he followed standard procedures when administering the PBT. Mr. Kamwani failed the PBT. Officer Shubra placed Mr. Kamwani under arrest for DUI. After placing Mr. Kamwani under arrest, Officer Shubra applied for a warrant to take a blood draw from Mr. Kamwani. The Justice of Peace Court Judge granted the warrant.

         The Court viewed the video recording of Mr. Kamwani's traffic stop. The Court also reviewed the warrant issued for the blood draw. Moreover, the Court, as the fact finder, observed Officer Shubra during his testimony. The Court finds that Officer Shubra is a very credible witness. Officer Shubra responded directly to the questions asked and displayed a positive demeanor while testifying. In addition, Officer Shubra's testimony was supported by the video recording.


         Applicable Legal Standards

         A traffic stop constitutes a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes and is subject to constitutional limitations.[4] The State bears the burden of showing that the "stop and any subsequent police investigation were reasonable in the circumstances."[5] First, the stop must be supported by reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime has occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur.[6] Second, the stop and ensuing inquiry must be reasonably related in scope to the reason for initially stopping the car.[7] "[A]ny investigation of the vehicle or its occupants beyond that required to complete the purpose of the traffic stop constitutes a separate seizure that must be supported by additional facts sufficient to justify the additional intrusion."[8]

         To demonstrate reasonable articulable suspicion, the officer must be able to point to "specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion."[9] An officer is entitled to use a person's prior criminal history when determining whether reasonable articulable suspicion exists.[10] However, a prior criminal history without more does not constitute reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime has occurred, is occurring or is about to occur.[11] A reviewing court must consider the totality of the circumstances "viewed through the eyes of a reasonable, trained ...

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