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State v. Harris

Superior Court of Delaware

April 11, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
BRENT M. HARRIS, SR., Defendant.

          Submitted: April 8, 2019

         Upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress. Denied.

          Sean A. Motoyoshi, Esquire of the Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State.

          Suzanne MacPherson-Johnson, Esquire of the Office of the Public Defender, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the Defendant.

          ORDER

          Hon. William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the Court is Defendant Brent M. Harris (hereinafter "Defendant") and his Motion to Suppress.[1] After carefully considering the Defendant's motion, the State's response in opposition, and oral arguments made at the suppression hearing, it appears to the Court that:

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         1. On May 18, 2018 at approximately 5:50 p.m., Delaware State Trooper Corporal Demalto (hereinafter "Cpl. Demalto"), observed a light blue Buick Le Sabre with a Maryland registration, traveling westbound on Delaware State Route 42 (hereinafter "Route 42") west of Cheswold, Delaware. Cpl. Demalto was on the lookout for a Buick that matched that description from a report that it had been previously observed by the members of the Governor's Task Force at a Wal-Mart located at 36 Jerome Driver, in Dover, Delaware, as part of an ongoing criminal drug investigation.[2]

         2. As Cpl. Demalto began to follow the Buick, he observed that it was following a preceding Sports Utility Vehicle (hereinafter "SUV") "within a dangerously close proximity."[3] Cpl. Demalto testified that he estimated that the Buick was less than one car length from the SUV, consistently tapping his brakes, and swerving from side to side.

         3. After approximately four miles, Cpl. Demalto observed the Buick pass the SUV on its right hand side as the SUV was attempting to make a left hand turn, without utilizing its right turn signal. As a result of this, and his previous observations, Cpl. Demalto initiated a traffic stop on the Buick. As a result of the traffic stop, the Defendant, the driver and sole occupant of the Buick, was arrested and charged with, amongst other drug related charges: (1) 1 count of Following a Vehicle Too Closely, a violation of 21 Del. C. § 4123; and (2) 1 count of No Turn Signal, a violation of 21 Del. C. § 4155.[4]

         4. The Defendant subsequently filed this untimely motion to suppress on February 11, 2019, moving to suppress all evidence seized as a result of Cpl. Demalto's alleged illegal search.[5] The State's response in opposition was filed on March 12, 2019. A suppression hearing, including oral arguments, was held on April 8, 2019 and the Court reserved its decision at that time.

         PARTIES CONTENTIONS

         5. The Defendant argues that the traffic stop conducted by Cpl. Demalto was pretexual and made in furtherance of a criminal investigation and surveillance associated with that investigation, rather than any traffic infraction observed by Cpl. Demalto. He specifically argues that since Cpl. Demalto had no probable cause to believe the Defendant had violated a ...


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