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State v. Smith

Superior Court of Delaware

October 1, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
AARON J. SMITH, Defendant.

          Date Submitted: May 9, 2018

          Phillip Casale, Esq., DAG Aaron Smith, Defendant Misty Seemans, Esq.

          ORDER

          Jan R. Jurden, President Judge

         Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief;[1] Superior Court Criminal Rule 61; the facts, arguments, and legal authorities set forth in Defendant's Motion; statutory and decisional law; and the record in this case, IT APPEARS THAT:

         1. On June 19, 2017, Defendant pled guilty to Possession of a Firearm By a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP")[2] and was immediately sentenced to 15 years at Level 5, suspended after the 5 year minimum mandatory, for 2 years at Level 4, suspended after 6 months at Level 4, for 18 months at Level 3.[3]

         2. On July 14, 2017, Defendant filed a pro se Motion for Sentence Modification on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel.[4] Defendant's Motion for Sentence Modification was denied August 2, 2017.[5]

         3. On May 9, 2018, Defendant timely filed the instant pro se Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 6l").[6] Defendant asserts three grounds for relief: (1) pretextual traffic stop; (2) illegal search and seizure; and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel.

         4. Before considering the substantive merits of any claim for postconviction relief, the Court must determine whether the defendant has met the procedural requirements of Rule 61.[7] If a procedural bar exists, the Court will not consider the merits of Defendant's postconviction claim unless Defendant shows that the exception found in Rule 6l(i)(5) applies. Under Rule 6l(i)(5), claims otherwise procedurally barred can be heard if Defendant makes out a "colorable claim that there was a miscarriage of justice because of a constitutional violation that undermines the fundamental legality, reliability, integrity or fairness of the proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction."

         5. Defendant did not raise either claim of a pretextual traffic stop or an illegal search and seizure during the proceedings leading to his conviction, nor did he raise any such claims on direct appeal. Therefore, the claims of a pretextual traffic stop and an illegal search and seizure are both procedurally barred by Rule 61.[8]

         6. Defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily pled guilty to PFBPP, [9] thereby waiving his right to challenge any alleged errors, deficiencies or defects occurring prior to the entry of his plea.[10]

         7. Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim is not procedurally barred.[11] Under the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, the defendant must establish two factors in order to prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.[12] In the context of a guilty plea challenge, Strickland requires a defendant to show that: (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) counsel's actions were "so prejudicial that there was a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's deficiencies, the defendant would not have taken a plea but would have insisted on going to trial."[13] There is a strong presumption that counsel's representation was reasonable.[14]

         8. Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel arises from defense counsel's alleged failure to file a motion to suppress the evidence seized at the time of Defendant's arrest.

         9. Prior to trial, defense counsel negotiated a plea offer with the State for a single felony.[15] The State indicated that the offer would be revoked if defense counsel filed a suppression motion.[16] The record reflects that defense counsel reviewed the details of the offer with Defendant and Defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily accepted the plea.[17]

         10. Defendant fails to set forth any allegations upon which the Court could find either prong of Strickland satisfied. Defendant does not assert that defense counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness or that, but for defense counsel's alleged substandard representation, the result would have been different. Further, Defendant fails to provide any basis that would permit the Court to consider the applicability of a Rule 6l(i)(5) exception. 11. The Court has reviewed the record carefully and ...


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