Submitted: February 28, 2019
Motion to Suppress. Granted.
Lindsay A. Taylor, Esquire
Stephanie H. Blaisdell, Esquire
Lindsay A. Taylor, Esquire of the Department of Justice,
Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State of Delaware.
Stephanie H. Blaisdell, Esquire of the Office of the Public
Defender, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the Defendant.
this Court is Defendant Matthew Frost's
("Defendant" or "Frost") Motion to
Suppress. The Defendant moves to suppress all evidence
collected subsequent to a traffic stop conducted by the
Delaware State Police.
carefully considering the merits of Frost's motion, the
State's response in opposition, and oral arguments made
by the parties at the suppression hearing, it appears to the
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 11, 2018, at approximately 1:00 p.m., Delaware State
Police Officer First Class Holl (hereinafter "Tfc.
Holl") and Corporal Goertz (hereinafter "Cpl.
Goertz"), conducted a traffic stop on Route 1, Exit 98.
Tfc. Holl had observed the Defendant's vehicle failing to
signal before exiting Route 1.
Holl and Cpl. Goertz both approached the Defendant's
vehicle and noted that he was the sole occupant of the
vehicle. Tfc. Holl initiated the interaction through the
Defendant's passenger side window and Cpl. Goertz stood
watch on the driver's side. Tfc. Holl testified that the
Defendant moved frantically within the vehicle, including
frantically operating his cellular telephone, and exhibited
extreme nervousness, much more than a typical motorist
stopped for a traffic violation.
Holl asked the Defendant for the standard documentation
required of all Delaware drivers: license, registration, and
proof of insurance. The Defendant immediately produced his
license and registration, but was unable to produce any valid
proof of insurance via the "GEICO" application on
his cellular telephone.
While the Defendant attempted to produce his proof of
insurance, Tfc. Holl asked the Defendant from where he was
traveling and the Defendant stated "North Smyrna"
and that he had given "Ashley" a ride home. When
pressed for Ashley's last name, the Defendant could not
answer, but stated that she was a friend of
"Nick's."These vague answers sounded to Tfc. Holl
as if the Defendant was creating a story, and those, coupled
with his frantic movements, raised his suspicions.
some point during the interaction, Tfc. Holl testified that
he observed, in plain view on the passenger car-seat, a small
metal blade approximately an inch long by approximately a
quarter of an inch wide. Tfc. Holl testified that based on his
training and experience,  this blade specifically, was commonly
utilized by heroin users to scrape heroin residue from used
Defendant was still unable to produce his insurance
information after approximately 30 seconds, and Tfc. Holl
asked him to step out of the vehicle. The Defendant failed to
immediately comply, but remained in the vehicle, and asked if
he was being detained. Tfc. Holl said yes and approximately
40 seconds later, the Defendant finally complied and stepped
out of the vehicle.
Outside of the vehicle, the Defendant was further questioned
and disclosed possession of a knife on his person. Tfc. Holl
searched the Defendant for additional weapons and discovered
approximately $200.00. It was at this point, for the first
time, that Tfc. Holl informed the Defendant that he and Cpl.
Goertz were going to further search the vehicle because
"drug paraphernalia" had been found.
Holl then inquired if Ashley had left the blade in the car.
The Defendant asserted while she had left nothing in the car,
she had previously went to
"Connections." Tfc. Holl further inquired if the
Defendant had anything else was in the vehicle that he should
know about and stated "if it is just [the blade],
I'm going to chalk it up to
'Ashley.'" The Defendant then disclosed possession
of marijuana and marijuana drug paraphernalia.
subsequent search of the vehicle revealed marijuana, 5.9
grams of heroin, and drug paraphernalia.
Defendant was arrested and charged with multiple drug
offenses including: (1)1 count of Drug Dealing, a felony, in
violation of16 Del. C. § 4752(1); (2)1 count of
Aggravated Possession, a felony, in violation of 16 Del.
C. § 4752(3); (3) 1 count of Possession of Drug
Paraphernalia, a misdemeanor, in violation of 16 Del. C.
§ 4771(a); and (4) 1 count of Possession of
Marijuana, a misdemeanor, in violation of 16 Del. C.
Defendant timely filed this motion to suppress on February 6,
2019 and moved to suppress all evidence seized as a result of
the vehicle search. The State's response, in opposition,
was timely filed on February 20, 2019. The Court heard the
parties' arguments and testimony from Tfc. Holl at the
suppression hearing held on February 28, 2019 and reserved
presented with a motion to suppress evidence or statements
collected in a warrantless search, the State bears the burden
of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, "that
the challenged police conduct comported with the rights
guaranteed [to the defendant] by the United States
Constitution, the Delaware Constitution and Delaware
statutory law." At a suppression hearing, the trial
judge sits as the trier of fact, and determines the
credibility of witnesses.
Defendant moves to suppress all evidence collected by Tfc.
Holl, characterizing the evidence as fruit of the
poisonous tree. The Defendant argues that ¶c. Holl
had not developed a reasonable, articulable suspicion to
justify ordering the Defendant out of the vehicle that
extended the traffic stop. The Defendant asserts that this
extension was an illegal seizure because he was detained
beyond the time that would be required to address the traffic
State, in opposition, argues that Tfc. Holl, based on the
totality of the circumstances, had not only a reasonable,
articulable suspicion to extend the traffic stop, but
developed probable cause to search the Defendant's
vehicle. The State contends that while the
Defendant was lawfully questioned pursuant to 11 Del. C
§ 1902, his conduct, coupled with Tfc. Holl's
observation of drug paraphernalia in plain view, established
probable cause to extend the Defendant's detention
pursuant to Loper v. State, to conduct a search of
the Defendant's vehicle. Furthermore, the State argued,
for the first time at the suppression hearing, that the
seized evidence should not be suppressed because it would
have been inevitably discovered during an inventory search,
since the Defendant would have been prohibited from driving
because he failed to produce proof of insurance.
individual's right to be free from unlawful governmental
searches and seizures in Delaware is secured by two
independent sources. The Fourth Amendment of the United
States Constitution guarantees "the right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and
seizures...." Likewise, Article I, Section 6 of the
Delaware Constitution guarantees that "[t]he people
shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and
possessions, from unreasonable searches and
seizures...." Searches and seizures are presumptively
unreasonable, unless they are authorized by warrants or fall
under a recognized exception to the warrant
When a violation of a defendant's right to be free from
illegal searches and seizures has been demonstrated, the
exclusionary rule is the remedy. As such, evidence
recovered illegally must be excluded, in the absence of an
independent source for or situation allowing for inevitably
The Initial Traffic Stop was Lawful
Court will first focus on the legality of the initial traffic
stop. Based on the record, the Court finds that Tfc. Holl had
probable cause to conduct a traffic stop concerning the
traffic stop is regarded as "a seizure of a vehicle and
its occupants by the State," and is only reasonable if
supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal
activity or probable cause to believe that a traffic
violation has occurred.
Here, Tfc. Holl testified at the suppression hearing that he
observed the Defendant fail to use a turn signal when he
exited Route 1 onto Exit 98. This was undisputed by the
Defendant. Tfc. HolFs testimony constitutes "specific
and articulable facts which taken together with rational
inferences from those facts reasonably warrant the
intrusion." Therefore, the Court finds that the
State has met its burden of demonstrating that Tfc. Holl had
probable cause to conduct the traffic stop because he
observed the traffic violation.
The Scope of the Traffic Stop was Exceeded without Probable
The traffic stop was initially extended lawfully due to the
Defendant's inability to produce proof of insurance.
order to be lawful, an officer may detain the individual only
as long as necessary to effectuate the purpose of the traffic
stop. Police may request the occupants of the
car to provide identification,  and to exit the
vehicle. But, "any investigation of the
vehicle or its occupants beyond that required to complete the
purpose of the traffic stop must be supported by independent
facts sufficient to justify the additional
intrusion." To justify further detention for
questioning on matters unrelated to the initial stop, the
officer must have reasonable suspicion that the driver or his
passenger has committed, is committing, or is about to commit
some other crime. "Reasonable suspicion" is more
than an ill-defined hunch; rather, under the totality of the
circumstances, the detaining officers must have a
"particularized and objective basis for suspecting the
particular person stopped of criminal
suspect's nervous behavior and/or odd assertions that he
did not know the name of his passenger may or may not, in
some situations, provide the officer with reasonable
suspicion justifying further limited questioning of the
suspect and his passenger. But these facts, standing
alone, cannot justify the detention of extended duration and
the more intrusive measures like a pat-down search or an
officer's use of handcuffs. More "tangible,
objectively articulable indicators of criminality, such as
driving with a suspended license, failure to provide proof of
ownership of the vehicle, or the palpable odor of alcohol,
drugs, or air freshener (often used to mask the smell of
marijuana and cocaine)" in conjunction with nervousness,
may support a finding of reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity. Here, the Court finds that failure to
provide a law enforcement officer with proof of insurance, is
a tangible, objectively articulable indicator.
State, in opposition, argues that this case is more akin to
Loper v. State, rather than Caldwell v.
State. The Court disagrees.
Loper, our Supreme Court held that generally
speaking, a person already lawfully detained as a result of a
valid traffic stop is not seized a second time when ordered
to leave his car because his mobility is already validly
limited. The Loper court relied on
Pennsylvania v. Mimms,  where, after weighing the
interest of the driver's personal liberty against the
safety of the police officer, the United States Supreme Court
held that "once a motor vehicle has been lawfully
detained for a traffic violation, the police officer may
order the driver to get out of the vehicle without violating
the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable
search and seizure."
this Court's purposes in determining whether the traffic
stop was unreasonably extended, the pertinent facts in
Loper, on which our Supreme Court relied on in
determining whether the "delay" was de
minimus or not, were: (1) the defendant was initially
stopped for speeding, which he conceded was a valid traffic
stop; (2) that the detention was delayed due ...