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Bradley v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 4, 2019

KAREEM BRADLEY, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: November 28, 2018

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID. No. 1602015338A (N)

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.


          James T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice

         On this 4th day of February 2019, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears that: (1) The appellant, Kareem Bradley, appeals from a jury verdict finding him guilty of Possession of a Firearm By a Person Prohibited and Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited. The firearm involved was found in a garage possessed by Bradley. He makes one claim on appeal. He claims that the Superior Court committed plain error by allowing into evidence items obtained from a warrantless and invalid search of the garage. His claim is set forth in three subparts.

         First, he contends that the search of the garage violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, § 6 of the Delaware Constitution. In support of this contention, he argues that the application for the warrant authorizing the search of the garage contained information obtained from a prior warrantless, unlawful entry into the garage. He further argues that the inevitable discovery rule does not apply. Second, he contends that even if the inevitable discovery rule applies (or the warrant was otherwise valid), the warrant was constitutionally defective because the warrant application lacked particularity. It lacked particularity, he argues, because it did not establish a nexus between the garage and his unlawful activity and failed to specify the places within the garage the police intended to search. Finally, he contends that the officers exceeded the scope of the warrant by searching a vehicle in the garage because the vehicle was not identified in the application for the warrant.

         (2) In November of 2015, Detective Barnes of the Wilmington Police

         Department and FBI Agent Haney received information from a trusted and past-proven reliable, confidential informant that Bradley was involved in marijuana distribution in Wilmington. The informant told the officers that Bradley possessed multiple firearms, including a handgun with an extended magazine and an AK-47-style assault rifle. The informant also told the officers that Bradley lived in Southbridge and frequented a garage in the area of 13th and Locust Streets. Furthermore, "the informant advised that s/he observed Bradley illegally purchase a gun from someone while inside the shop in the area of 13th and Locust streets."[1]The informant also supplied the officers with a text message from Bradley that indicated he was engaged in trafficking marijuana.

         (3) The police began surveillance of Bradley in January 2016.

         Surveillance continued for approximately two months. During this period, the police observed him meeting with subjects and engaging in what appeared to be hand-to-hand drug transactions. They also observed that he frequently visited three locations: his residence at 317 Townsend Street, his mother's residence at 2303 Thatcher Street, and a garage on the 1200 block of Locust Street. Officers observed him driving a red Dodge Challenger and a black Chrysler 300. "There were also several occasions where, while Bradley was at 317 Townsend or the garage in the 1200 block of Locust Street, subjects would respond to these locations and enter/exit same within a few minutes or less"-activity consistent with drug dealing according to Detective Barnes's training and experience.[2] The police searched a trash can at the curb directly in front of Bradley's residence and found "numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia," including "numerous empty, small, torn, knotted plastic sandwich bags commonly used to package drugs for sale," and a "small piece of marijuana blunt."[3] In the fourth week of February, the police stopped an individual after he had engaged in one of the observed hand-to-hand transactions with Bradley and found that he possessed marijuana.

         (4) On February 22, 2016, the police secured a search warrant for Bradley's residence, the Chrysler, and Bradley's person (the "first warrant"). At 5:09 p.m. that same day, Bradley was stopped in his black Chrysler and arrested; he was found in possession of several individually packaged bags of marijuana, a large sum of money, and a key ring with numerous keys. The officers then searched his residence pursuant to the first warrant and found more individually packaged bags of marijuana and another large sum of money. When the officers asked Bradley about the Locust Street garage, he denied any knowledge of it.

         (5) At around 6:30 p.m. that night, Detective Barnes and Agent Haney arrived at and opened the locked garage on Locust Street with the keys recovered from Bradley. According to Detective Barnes's testimony at the preliminary hearing, they walked in after unlocking the garage and observed a parked car, but did not attempt to open it. After the officers determined that the keys found on Bradley's person fit the locks to the garage, Officer Barnes asked Bradley if he leased the garage. He responded by saying he leased the garage with a friend to work on cars.

         (6) Detective Barnes left to get a search warrant for the garage (the "garage warrant"), while Agent Haney remained with other officers to secure the location. The garage warrant was obtained at 8:30 p.m. The application for the warrant included the same facts supporting the first warrant, except the affiant added that the officers found individually packaged bags of marijuana and large sums of money on Bradley's person and in his residence while executing the first warrant, that the keys recovered from Bradley fit the locks to the garage, that Bradley admitted to leasing the garage after the keys were confirmed to fit the locks, and that the informant had previously informed the officers that he or she observed Bradley illegally purchase a gun from someone while inside the garage. The affiant also changed the address of the garage from "1200 block of Locust Street" to "1203 Locus Street." [4]According to Detective Barnes's training and experience, Bradley's actions were consistent with maintaining several caches of drugs in different locations to facilitate drug dealing. Although the affidavit did not mention the vehicle in the garage, the garage warrant authorized the search of a "[o]ne story brick garage building with a white front door and a mailbox to the right marked 1203," including "[a]ny/all curtilages."[5]

         (7) At some point, the officers discovered that one of the keys recovered from Bradley unlocked the car.[6] Agent Haney observed a zipped, cloth lunchbox sitting on the driver's seat, in which he found a loaded firearm with an extended magazine.

         (8) At the preliminary hearing, defense counsel ("DC") questioned Detective Barnes ("DET") concerning the police's initial entry into the garage:

DC: Prior to the execution of the search warrant nobody went into the garage, is that what you're telling us?
DET: No. We did go into the garage.
DC: Okay. And what did you do while you were in the garage waiting for the search warrant, secure it?
DET: Yes
DC: And what did that consist of?
DET: Entering, observing what was in the garage, and leaving the garage.
DC: Okay. So you walked in the garage. There's basically nothing in the garage other than this vehicle that you're talking about, right?
DET: Correct.
DC: You don't attempt to enter the vehicle or to open any of the doors. You just see it. You see there's nothing there of any danger and then you secure the premises ...

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