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Harris v. State

Superior Court of Delaware

December 3, 2018

DUEVORN D. HARRIS, Defendant-Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Appellee.

          Submitted: September 6, 2018

         On Appeal from the Decision of the Court of Common Pleas AFFIRMED

          Joseph A. Hurley, Esq., Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Appellant/ Defendant-Below.

          Matthew F. Hicks, Esq., Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Appellee/Plaintiff-Below.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli, Judge.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant Duevorn Harris was arrested and charged with Driving a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol and various traffic violations. Defendant was represented by counsel and elected a non-jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas ("Trial Court"). At trial, the State and Defendant stipulated to the "sufficiency of the calibration logs" and the "sufficiency of the Intoxilyzer card."[1] According to the results of the Intoxilyzer test, Defendant had a Blood Alcohol Concentration ("BAC") of 0.163, [2] more than double the legal limit of O.O8.[3]

         The Trial Court found Defendant guilty of DUI Second Offense and the traffic violations by Order and Opinion dated March 12, 2018. Defendant was sentenced by Order dated April 27, 2018. This appeal followed.

         Defendant argues that (1) the Trial Court abused its discretion in considering the Intoxilyzer test result because the State did not lay a proper foundation for the admission into evidence of the calibration logs for the Intoxilyzer and Intoxilyzer card showing the results of the Intoxilyzer test; (2) the Trial Court erred by ruling that Defendant's stipulation to the admissibility of the Intoxilyzer card precluded Defendant from raising an objection to the reliability of the test result; and, in the alternative, (3) if the stipulation by Defendant's counsel ("Defense Counsel") waived Defendant's legal challenge to the results of the Intoxilyzer, then the ruling of the Trial Court to accept the stipulation and allow admission of the evidence is plain error which requires this Court to consider whether manifest injustice resulted.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Superior Court may consider an appeal from the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas in a criminal action.[4] The appellate role of this Court is limited to correcting legal error and determining whether the factual findings made by the trial judge are "sufficiently supported by the record and are the product of an orderly and logical deductive process."[5] Questions of law are reviewed de novo.[6]

         This Court will review the Trial Court's rulings on the admissibility of evidence for abuse of discretion.[7] A trial court has abused its discretion when it ignores rules of law or exceeds the bounds of reason, producing an unjust result.[8]The burden is on the party challenging the admission of the evidence to establish a clear abuse of discretion in order for this Court to reverse the Court of Common Pleas.[9]

         The challenge here involves the Trial Court's consideration of evidence to which the parties stipulated. A factual stipulation does not determine the legal effect of the facts stipulated, but a stipulation conclusively establishes that fact from which the trier of fact may draw its own legal conclusion.[10] Moreover, once a party stipulates to the admissibility of evidence, the other party wishing to rely upon such evidence is relieved of its obligation to establish a foundation.[11]

         Defendant's argument in the alternative involves Defendant's failure to object to the admissibility of evidence at trial, which "constitutes a waiver of the defendant's right to raise that issue on appeal, unless the error is plain."[12]

Under the plain error standard of review, the error complained of must be so clearly prejudicial to substantial rights as to jeopardize the fairness and integrity of the trial process. Furthermore, the doctrine of plain error is limited to material defects which are apparent on the face of the record; which are basic, serious and fundamental in their character, and which clearly deprive an accused of a substantial right, or which clearly show manifest injustice.[13]

         In the absence of a timely objection at trial, it is the defendant's burden to demonstrate prejudice in order ...


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