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State v. Frost

Superior Court of Delaware

April 2, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
MATTHEW D. FROST, Defendant.

          Submitted: March 25, 2019

         Upon the State's Motion for Reargument is Granted.

          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.

          ORDER

          Hon. William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Before this Court is the State of Delaware Department of Justice and its Motion for Reargument pursuant to Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) which applies under Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 57(d). After considering the motion, and the Defendant's response in opposition, it appears to the Court that:

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         1. This Court incorporates factual and procedural findings from its order dated March 13, 2019.[1]

         2. This Court granted Defendant Matthew Frost's (hereinafter "Defendant") Motion to Suppress on March 13, 2019.[2] The Court granted the Defendant's motion based on its belief that the State had not demonstrated that the Delaware State Police had probable cause to believe that the Defendant was in possession of drug paraphernalia and drugs.

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         3. The State moves for reargument regarding that order and bases its argument on three grounds. First, the State contends that the Court misapprehended the appropriate standard for probable cause and the facts of the case in a manner that changed the result of the case. Second, the State contends the Court erred in admitting certain evidence, which it claims was not properly authenticated. Finally, the State argues that the Court misapplied the doctrine of inevitable discovery.

         4. In response to the State's motion for reargument, the Defendant argues in opposition that the State has not met its burden to "demonstrate newly discovered evidence, a change in the law, or manifest injustice." The Defendant further argues that the Court correctly applied the legal principles of the inevitability doctrine and that Tfc. Holl's abandonment of seeking verification of the defendant's insurance, establishes only speculation on behalf of the State that the Defendant would not have been able to produce proof of insurance.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         5. Where the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure provide no rule governing a particular practice, that practice is governed by the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure.[3] As a result, a motion for reargument in a criminal case is governed by Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).[4]

         6. A motion for reargument pursuant to Rule 59(e) will be granted only if "the Court has overlooked a controlling precedent or legal principles, or the Court has misapprehended the law or facts such as would have changed the outcome of the underlying decision.'"[5] A motion for reargument is not an opportunity for a party to rehash arguments already decided by the Court or to present new arguments not previously raised.[6] In order for the motion to be granted, the movant must "demonstrate newly discovered evidence, a change in the law, or manifest injustice."[7]

         DISCUSSION

         7. One of the purposes of a Rule 59(e) Motion for Reargument is to provide the Court "with an opportunity to reconsider a matter and to correct any alleged legal or factual errors prior to an appeal."[8] Here, after considering the parties' contentions, the Court agrees with the State that sufficient grounds exist that warrant reargument.

         8. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by state agents. Searches are presumptively unreasonable unless they are supported by a valid warrant obtained on a showing of probable cause.[9] The automobile exception, however, permits the police to search a vehicle without a warrant if probable cause exists to believe the vehicle contains contraband.[10] Police officers may arrest individuals if the officer has probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime.[11]

         9. An officer has probable cause when he or she has information which would cause a reasonable person to believe that such a crime has taken place.[12] Probable cause is measured "not by precise standards, but by the totality of the circumstances through a case by case review of the 'factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.'"[13] To establish probable cause, the police need only present facts which suggest, when those facts are viewed under the totality of the circumstances, that there is a fair probability that the defendant has committed a crime.[14] The objective facts available to an officer, not his subjective thoughts, control whether he had the power to arrest an individual and conduct a search incident to the arrest.[15]

         10. The police do not need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, nor even prove guilt is more likely than not.[16] Additionally, the possibility there may be hypothetically innocent explanations for facts revealed during a police investigation does not preclude a determination that probable cause exists for an arrest.[17]

         11. First, the Court finds that it held the State to an impermissible standard regarding probable cause. In the March 13, 2019 order, the Court stated:

while the Court would not characterize the nail file as in pristine condition, it can not definitively state that the nail file, as presented, is covered partially by heroin residue. For all the Court knows, there could be another substance on the nail file such as rust or dirt."[18]

         12. In this case, the Court disagrees with the State that it did not base its determination as to the lack of probable cause pursuant to the totality of the circumstances standard that is mandated by Maxwell and its progeny. On the other hand, however, the Court agrees with the State that it misapplied the law as it pertains to certain portions of its analysis. Specifically, it appears that the Court, in its March 13, 2019 order, precluded Tfc. Holl's probable cause to search the Defendant's vehicle based, in part, on the possibility that the nail file was covered in rust or dirt. This innocent explanation for the condition of the nail file is an impressible basis to preclude probable cause.

         13. Likewise, the Court also finds that it held the State to an improper burden of ...


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