Submitted: August 23, 2018
Defendant's Motion to suppress DENIED
EASON PRIMOS, JUDGE.
the 27th day of August 2018, having considered
Defendant Randell Matthews's (hereinafter "Mr.
Matthews") motion to suppress and the State's
response, it appears that:
Matthews seeks to suppress all evidence resulting from the
alleged illegal seizure of his person and the results of
certain field sobriety tests administered to him by Officer
Krumrn on February 25, 2018. The facts cited herein are as
they appear to the Court following consideration of the
parties' submissions as well as the evidence and argument
presented at the hearing on August 23, 2018.
date in question, Dover Police Officer Krumm responded to a
report of a single vehicle accident in which the vehicle had
allegedly struck the side of a building. The responding
officer found Mr. Matthews sitting on the ground near a
vehicle matching the description from the report. Upon making
contact with Mr. Matthews, Officer Krumrn noted that he
appeared confused, was moving sluggishly, and was stumbling.
Officer Krumrn further noted that Mr. Matthews was slurring
his speech as well as speaking slowly and incoherently. Mr.
Matthews began to administer a field sobriety test, but Mr.
Matthews did not cooperate and said that it was
"cold." The weather that night was very cold and it
was raining. In response, Officer Krumrn offered to transport
Mr. Matthews to the Dover Police Station, located
approximately three to four blocks away, to be administered
field sobriety tests in a warmer "controlled
environment." Mr. Matthews agreed. Mr. Matthews was
patted down and transported to the station in the back of the
police cruiser in handcuffs. There, Officer Krumrn
administered sobriety tests, and at that time, Mr. Matthews
was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
motion to suppress, Mr. Matthews contends that his removal to
the Dover Police Station for the purpose of administering
sobriety tests constituted an illegal seizure of his person,
and that the results of the subsequent sobriety tests were
obtained only by exploitation of the initial illegal seizure
and are therefore to be suppressed. Mr. Matthews does not object
to the validity of the initial detention, the field sobriety
tests and their results, or his eventual arrest (except that
the test results and subsequent arrest are allegedly tainted
by the illegality of the prior seizure of his person). The
narrow issue at hand is whether the transportation of Mr.
Matthews from the site of the accident to the police station
constituted an unlawful seizure of his person.
State replies that transporting Mr. Matthews to the nearby
police station when inclement weather prevented the effective
administration of the tests at the scene did not constitute
an illegal seizure and that the subsequent results of the
field sobriety tests were not obtained by exploitation of an
illegal seizure of his person.
proper scope of an investigatory detention is
"determined by the seizure's 'mission'"
and must be carefully tailored to the underlying
justification. Delaware courts have previously held that
officers may not remove a motorist from the scene of the
initial investigation when the removal is "wholly
unrelated to the purposes of the initial
detention." Removal of motorists from the scene to a
police station for the purpose of performing field sobriety
tests has been permitted in circumstances where due to
dangerous roadside conditions and inclement weather there are
"no suitable or safe means of conducting the requisite
tests, " and thus such transportation is
"reasonable and necessary."
the parties concur that Mr. Matthews was initially validly
detained: the record indicates that the detention was based
on the officer's belief that a traffic violation had
occurred and that Mr. Matthews may have been driving under
the influence. As to the sole point of contention, whether
the removal of Mr. Matthews from the scene of the accident
was justified due to inclement weather conditions, the Court
finds that it was. The Court heard credible testimony that
the weather was rainy and very cold, that Mr. Matthews
complained of the cold, and that the officer reasonably
concluded that Mr. Matthews would be unable to perform the
tests under then current conditions. The Court also viewed a
video recording showing that Mr. Matthews appeared either
unwilling or unable to perform the initial field test and
verbally complained that it was "cold." The officer
in this case acted appropriately by transporting Mr. Matthews
to a warm and dry area only three to four blocks away to
perform the field sobriety tests.
Matthews asserts that his case is analogous to a previous
decision of this Court in State v. Maxwell, which
affirmed a decision of the Court of Common Pleas that deemed
unjustified an officer's determination to transport a
defendant to the police station for field sobriety tests when
the weather was cold and rainy. The Court finds the analogy
inapt. In Maxwell, this Court gave great deference
to the findings of the Court of Common Pleas, which had held
that, upon the testimony of the road and weather conditions
presented, there was not a sufficient safety justification to
transport the defendant multiple miles to the police
contrast here, the Court is convinced, based on the testimony
presented, that the transportation of Mr. Matthews to the
police station was reasonable and necessary given the weather
conditions, and that the additional intrusion of transporting
Mr. Matthews to a location only four blocks away was narrowly
tailored to the officer's goal of investigating a
possible DUI. The Court's ruling here is narrow, and
does not imply that transportation of a DUI suspect is
justified whenever it is cold and raining, nor that
transportation is justified regardless of the distance
travelled. This ruling is tied to the particular facts of
this case, which rendered transportation reasonable and
necessary for the administration of the tests.
Mr. Matthews's Motion to Suppress is