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Walker v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 21, 2019

KEVIN A. WALKER, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: December 6, 2018

          Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware I.D. No. 1607007865 (K)

          Stephanie Blaisdell, Esquire, Assistant Public Defender, Dover, Delaware, for Appellant, Kevin A. Walker.

          John Williams, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Dover, Delaware, for Appellee, State of Delaware.

          Before VAUGHN, SEITZ, and TRAYNOR, Justices.

          VAUGHN, JUSTICE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Appellant, Kevin A. Walker, appeals from a Superior Court order finding that he violated the terms of his probation. The issue we address is whether evidence seized as a result of an unlawful administrative search of Walker's residence should have been suppressed from use as evidence at his violation of probation hearing.

         II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Walker began probation on May 10, 2017, as a result of a felony driving-under-the-influence conviction. On June 1, 2017, the State received a tip from a past-proven reliable informant that Walker had heroin in his home that he planned to distribute. On June 5, 2017, Delaware probation officers conducted an administrative search of Walker's residence pursuant to an administrative warrant. Administrative warrants and searches are authorized by 11 Del. C. § 4321(d), which permits the State to conduct administrative searches of probationers that are "in accordance with Department [of Correction] procedures." The Department of Correction promulgated Probation and Parole Procedure 7.19 ("Procedure 7.19"), which sets out the procedural requirements for conducting administrative searches.[1]

         During the search, probation officers discovered 252 bags of heroin, drug paraphernalia, and a locked safe. The officers took the safe to Delaware State Police Troop 3. After the officers opened the safe there, they found a loaded 9mm handgun, five doses of Suboxone, [2] and five grams of marijuana. The Delaware State Police then arrested Walker and took him to the Sussex Correctional Institution ("SCI"). At SCI, correctional officers found 86 bags of heroin and nine grams of crack cocaine inside Walker's rectum.

         In the criminal proceeding based on the new charges, Walker filed a motion to suppress all the evidence found as a result the administrative search, claiming that the search was not conducted in accordance with the provisions of 11 Del. C. § 4321(d) and Procedure 7.19. At the suppression hearing, the Superior Court, guided by our decision in Culver v. State, [3] analyzed the four factors that the probation officer and the officer's supervisor were required to consider under Procedure 7.19 before making the decision to conduct the administrative search. In Culver, we explained that Procedure 7.19 requires the following:

         The officer and supervisor will hold a case conference . . . . During the case conference the supervisor will review the "Yes" or "No" responses of the officer to the following search decision factors:

(1) Sufficient reason to believe the offender possesses contraband.
(2)Sufficient reason to believe the offender is in violation of ...

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