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State v. Hall

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

October 15, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
BRICE HALL, Defendant.

          Submitted: August 28, 2018

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress. Denied.

          Lindsay A. Taylor, Esquire, Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State of Delaware.

          Anthony J. Capone, Esquire of the Office of the Public Defender, Dover, Delaware; attorney for Defendant.

          ORDER

          WITHAM, JR. RESIDENT JUDGE.

         Upon consideration of Brice Hall's ("Defendant") Motion to Suppress, the State of Delaware's Response in opposition, the Court's hearing on the motion, along with supplemental memorandums from the parties, it appears that:

         1. On February 27, 2018, Delaware police detained the seventeen-year-old Defendant for violating his probation.

         2. Law enforcement transported the Defendant to the police station and summoned his mother.

         3.With the Defendant's mother present, Officer Jacob Rankin ("Rankin") read him his rights pursuant to Miranda. The conversation was recorded. The Defendant waived his rights and provided a non-incriminatory statement.

         4. After the Defendant's statement, Rankin requested consent to obtain a DNA sample from the Defendant. The Defendant and his mother both signed a "Consent Form" (hereinafter, the "DNA Consent Form") acknowledging the Defendant's consent for the search. [1]

         5. Subsequently, Rankin ceased recording and escorted the Defendant's mother from the interrogation room.

         6. A short time later, Officer Robert Cunningham ("Cunningham") entered the interview room and, in the absence of the Defendant's mother, requested the Defendant's consent to search his cell-phone. This interaction was not recorded.

         7. The Defendant initially refused. However, Cunningham told the Defendant that they would obtain a warrant to search the phone. He subsequently agreed to sign the second "Consent Form" (hereinafter, the "Cell-Phone Consent Form") permitting the search. Cunningham read the form, in it's entirety, to the Defendant before he signed. [2] The Cell-Phone Consent Form was never presented to the Defendant's mother.

         8. Cunningham searched the Defendant's cell-phone and found evidence of the charges filed in the present case. [3] Another police officer, Officer John Wilson ("Wilson") confronted the Defendant about the evidence, whereby he made incriminating statements. This conversation was recorded.

         9. On June 4, 2018, the Defendant filed the instant motion seeking to suppress the evidence seized during the search of his cell-phone. The Defendant contends that his consent was not voluntary in light of the preceding circumstances, and particularly takes issue with the failure of police to record the conversation that secured his consent.

         10. On June 11, 2018, the State filed its response in opposition. The State contends that the Defendant's consent was voluntary because: (i) he executed two separate "Consent Forms" [4] that informed him of his right to refuse a search; (ii) he has had numerous interactions with the police prior to this incident, where he previously refused to waive his rights; (iii) he is a high-school student of average intelligence; (iv) he communicated effectively with police during his detention; (v) he cooperated with police in the presence of his mother, thereby making his subsequent cooperation in her absence less suspicious; (vi) his detention, up until the point of his consent, was relatively short; and (vii) during the entire process, Rankin, Cunningham, and Wilson were polite and respectful toward the Defendant.

         11. As a result of the Defendant's presentation at the suppression hearing that expanded the scope of his argument which was not specifically stated in his motion, the Court permitted both parties to exchange memoranda to address the argument's expanded scope; specifically, whether the ...


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