Submitted: March 15, 2019
Defendant's Motion to Suppress
EASON PRIMOS JUDGE
the Court is the Motion to Suppress of Defendant Thomas
Bolden (hereinafter "Mr. Bolden"). Mr. Bolden seeks
to suppress all evidence resulting from an administrative
search of room 110 at the Dover Inn in Dover, Delaware
(hereinafter "the Hotel Room"). After considering
the parties' written submissions, and the evidence and
argument presented at the hearing on March 15, 2019, the
Court has determined that the Motion to Suppress should be
September 2018, Senior Probation Officer Rick Porter
(hereinafter "SPO Porter") conducted an
investigation into the defendant, Mr. Bolden, after receiving
information from a confidential source (hereinafter
"CI") that Mr. Bolden was in possession of a silver
and black handgun. The CI, a cooperating defendant, informed
SPO Porter that Mr. Bolden was staying at the Dover Inn,
located at 248 North DuPont Highway in Dover, Delaware, and
that Mr. Bolden was keeping the gun in a black and red
backpack. SPO Porter knew Mr. Bolden to be on Level 3
probation and to be a person prohibited from possessing
firearms. SPO Porter also knew that Mr. Bolden had been
claiming to be homeless for several weeks, and that he had
not informed his probation officers that he was staying at
the Dover Inn, in violation of his probation.
Porter spoke with U.S. Marshal's Task Force Officer
Michael Willson, who advised SPO Porter that he had seen Mr.
Bolden in the area of the Dover Inn the week prior. SPO
Porter traveled to the Dover Inn and, upon arrival, observed
Mr. Bolden leaving the hotel parking lot on a bicycle.
Porter then made contact with the manager of the Dover Inn,
Ms. Edna Hayes. SPO Porter showed Ms. Hayes a photo of the
defendant, which she was able to positively identify as Mr.
Bolden, and she confirmed that he was, indeed, staying at the
hotel in the Hotel Room. SPO Porter was advised that the
Hotel Room was registered to co-defendant, Bobby Pitts. Ms.
Hayes stated that Mr. Bolden had been staying in the Hotel
Room for approximately two weeks and had paid for the room
daily in cash. SPO Porter then reviewed the hotel
surveillance video and positively identified Mr. Bolden
departing the Hotel Room prior to leaving the hotel area on
Porter subsequently contacted Supervisor Willoughby of Dover
Probation and Parole and reviewed the criteria for approval
of an administrative search set forth in Probation and Parole
Procedure 7.19. The information that SPO Porter reviewed with
Supervisor Willoughby included the tip from the CI, the
efforts to corroborate the tip, and Mr. Bolden's apparent
violation of his probation by reporting himself homeless
while residing in the Hotel Room. Supervisor Willoughby
approved the administrative search.
Porter, along with officers from the Dover Police Department,
subsequently contacted Mr. Bolden in the area of South New
Street in downtown Dover. Mr. Bolden was taken into custody
and transported to the Hotel Room, where the administrative
search of the room proceeded.
entering the Hotel Room, SPO Porter and a Dover police
officer, Detective Johnson, made contact with Derrick Wilcox.
The officers smelled the odor of marijuana in the room and
observed a marijuana blunt and packaging materials in plain
view. SPO Porter began his administrative search and located
a firearm in a desk drawer near where Mr. Wilcox had been
seated. Mr. Wilcox advised that the gun was registered and
belonged to Mr. Pitts.
Porter continued with the administrative search and located a
red and black Phillies backpack, which matched the
description of the bag given by the CI as belonging to Mr.
Bolden. Inside the bag, SPO Porter
discovered a silver and black handgun, also matching the
description given by the CI, along with a rifle magazine
containing 30 rounds of ammunition. Other contraband was
found in the room as well.
as part of their criminal sanctions, do not share the same
liberties as ordinary citizens. Rather, probation is to serve as
a criminal sanction, and "[t]he special nature of
probationary supervision justifies a departure from the usual
warrant and probable cause requirements for
searches...." A warrantless search of a
probationer's home, nevertheless, must be
"reasonable, " and it has been long settled in
Delaware that "suspicionless" searches of
probationers are unlawful. As a result, Delaware follows the
"reasonable suspicion" standard in justifying
searches of probationers. "Reasonable suspicion" exists
when the "totality of the circumstances" indicate a
"particularized and objective basis" for suspecting
a probationer of wrongdoing.
11, section 4321(d) of the Delaware Code grants probation and
parole officers in Delaware with certain statutory authority
to effectuate warrantless searches of
probationers. The regulations enacted pursuant to that
statute provide that "absent exigent circumstances, a
probation and parole officer must obtain the approval of a
supervisor, manager or director before conducting a
search."Moreover, absent exigent circumstances, the
officer and supervisor should generally hold a case
conference using the search checklist as a