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State v. Palmer

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

August 13, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
BREMONTE R. PALMER, Defendant.

          Submitted: August 1, 2018

         Upon Defendant's Motion to suppress DENIED.

          Sean A. Motoyoshi, Esquire, Andre M. Beauregard, Esquire.

          ORDER

          Noel Eason Primos, Judge.

         On this the 13th day of August, 2018, having considered Defendant Bremonte Palmer's (hereinafter "Defendant") motion to suppress and the State's response, as well as evidence and argument offered at a hearing held August 1, 2018, the Court finds that the motion to suppress must be DENIED.

         Defendant seeks suppression of drug contraband seized from his person pursuant to a police stop of a vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger on January 2, 2018. The following facts are those as found by the Court by a preponderance of the evidence.

         I. Factual Background

         At approximately 3:30 p.m. on the day in question, Troopers Solda and Holl of the Delaware State Police were conducting surveillance in Woodside, Delaware, when they observed a red Dodge Charger (hereinafter the "Vehicle") stop on the shoulder of the road with its hazard lights on. The driver of the Vehicle, Donald Bratcher, exited on foot and approached a house nearby. Bratcher tested the doorknob and, finding the door to be locked, returned to the Vehicle and drove away. The Vehicle still had its hazard lights on as it pulled onto the roadway and did not utilize its turn signal.

         The Vehicle continued along the road for a short time before Solda and Holl initiated a traffic stop. The Vehicle pulled over to the shoulder and Solda and Holl approached on foot. The officers discovered Bratcher driving the vehicle and also observed Defendant in the front passenger seat, and another passenger in the back seat, Savannah Walker.

         The troopers began to collect information and documentation from the Vehicle occupants, but Bratcher was unable to produce registration or insurance documents for the Vehicle, and Walker was unable to produce identification of any kind. Trooper Solda also observed that Bratcher was visibly nervous and had a long round object in his pants pocket that Trooper Solda considered to be of a shape and size consistent with either a bundle of heroin or a firearm magazine. Trooper Holl observed that Defendant appeared very nervous and that he had a wallet on his lap that contained a large quantity of United States currency.

         The troopers returned to their police vehicle and began to perform records, documents, and background checks on the Vehicle and its occupants. The troopers also discussed their previous experience with Bratcher, and recollected that he was a suspect in a recently reported shooting. Further investigative efforts were rendered difficult due to a malfunction with the onboard computer, which prevented the verification of insurance information for the Vehicle and confirmation of Walker's identity and whether she had any criminal history or active capiases.

         The officers again approached the Vehicle on foot and requested that Bratcher step out of the Vehicle. Bratcher was patted down and drug contraband was discovered in his pants pocket, at which time he was arrested and placed inside the police vehicle. Meanwhile, Trooper Holl continued to question Defendant, who began to exhibit aggressive behavior, including the use of profanity and "sizing up" Trooper Holl, i.e., looking at him and his weapon in a way that made Trooper Holl believe that Defendant was preparing to assault him. Trooper Holl asked Defendant to exit the Vehicle and handcuffed him. Upon handcuffing him, Trooper Holl patted down Defendant and detected a large round object in his groin area of almost exactly the same shape and size as the log of heroin earlier found in Bratcher's pocket. A search later revealed this object to be drug contraband. The Vehicle's occupants were then transported to Troop Three.

         II. Legal Standard

         In a suppression hearing, the Court sits as the finder of fact and evaluates the credibility of the witnesses.[1] The party with whom the burden rests must persuade the Court by a preponderance of the evidence.[2] Because this ...


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