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Patton v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 30, 2019

ANDRE PATTON [1] Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: February 6, 2019

          Court Below: Family Court of the State of Delaware C.A. No. 1707017837

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.

          ORDER

          Leo E. Strine, Jr. Chief Justice

         This 30th day of April 2019, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) Andre Patton was found to have committed the crimes of Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Juvenile, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and Shoplifting less than $1, 500, and was thus found delinquent.[2] The only issue on appeal is whether the Family Court properly denied Patton's motion to suppress the gun and ammunition evidence found in Patton's backpack.

         (2) Below, the trial court focused on the issue of whether the search of the backpack was justified by probable cause and found that it was.[3] But, as the State effectively concedes, there was time for the police to secure a warrant, and there were no exigent circumstances justifying their failure to do so.[4] On appeal, the State argues that the denial of Patton's motion to suppress should be affirmed on alternative grounds, namely, that there was no warrant required to search the backpack because it was left in plain view or "abandoned."[5]

         (3) We agree. On the undisputed facts, Patton left his backpack on the ground by a stop sign in a busy parking lot, went far away from it, and limited his ability to protect or even see it.[6] Although Patton argues that to find that he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his backpack the State must show that Patton disclaimed ownership of the backpack, [7] that is not the test. Rather, based on the totality of the circumstances, this Court must determine whether Patton objectively abandoned the backpack.[8] When someone leaves personal property in plain sight, in a busy place, and departs the area, that person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the abandoned personal property.[9] Because that is what Patton did here-and failed even to try to put the backpack under a bush or under some cover-he cannot claim that his privacy rights were intruded upon. For that reason, the judgment of the Family Court is affirmed.

         NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the judgment of the Family Court is hereby AFFIRMED.

---------

Notes:

[1] The Court previously assigned a pseudonym to the party under Supreme Court Rule 7(d).

[2] App. to Opening Br. at A5-6 (Trial Docket).

[3] Exhibit A to Opening Br. at 12-13. In fairness to the Family Court, the issues were presented to it in a confusing way, and none of the parties below focused on the absence of a warrant. Nonetheless, the State did argue that Patton had no reasonable expectation of privacy because he had left the backpack in plain view in a public place and proceeded to go back into the mall without it. Exhibit C to Opening Br. at 7-9 (the State arguing that the search of Patton's backpack did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights because he abandoned the property); see also Exhibit B to Opening Br. at 6-9 (Patton arguing only that the stop and search was unlawful ...


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