Hakeem M. EVANS, Defendant-Below, Appellant
STATE of Delaware, Plaintiff-Below, Appellee.
January 17, 2019
Corrected: June 5, 2019
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of the State of
Delaware in and for New Castle County, REVERSED.
S. Gifford, IV, Esquire, The Law Office of Benjamin S.
Gifford, IV, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellant, Hakeem M.
C. Mayer, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of
Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellee, the State of
"The more you look at common knowledge, the more you
realise that it is more likely to be common than it is to be
knowledge." Since the adoption of our criminal
impersonation statute, Delaware practitioners and jurists
assumed that the State need only prove that one gave a false
name to be convicted. The Court here must, for the first
time, confront that precise assumption. That examination
reveals that no matter what was once believed to be in the
font of common Delaware criminal law knowledge, one cannot
criminally impersonate a wholly fictitious person; the State
must prove as an element of that statutory offense that a
false name given is
one belonging to "a human being who has been born and is
M. Evans appeals his conviction for misdemeanor criminal
impersonation. Evans only contention on appeal is that, at
his Court of Common Pleas trial, the State failed to prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that he "impersonate[d]
another person" when he verbally gave the police a name
that was not his own. The Court must conclude here that he is
right. And because there was insufficient evidence to support
Evans conviction of misdemeanor criminal impersonation, it
must be REVERSED.
II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
before midnight on April 30, 2017, New Castle County Police
Officer Christopher Nikituk was dispatched to Stonebridge
Boulevard in New Castle, Delaware, for a loud music
complaint. Officer Nikituk found the reported vehicle and
spoke to its two male occupants. One of the two was the
Appellant Hakeem M. Evans. Officer Nikituk asked each man for
his name, date of birth, phone number, and address. After
some back-and-forth, Evans told the officer that his name was
"Nasir Evans." Evans also provided a date of birth
and phone number. Officer Nikituk searched the Delaware
Criminal Justice Information System ("DELJIS"), but
found no records for that name and date of birth.
Officer Nikituk asked Evans to identify himself once more.
This time Evans told the officer that his name was
"Johnny Roberts" and gave a different birthdate.
Again Officer Nikituk searched DELJIS. Again he could find no
records matching the information given. A second officer
on-scene then ran the phone number Evans had first provided.
That DELJIS search revealed Evans true identity: Hakeem
Evans, born August 23, 1994. That search also revealed that
Evans had an open arrest warrant.
was arrested and eventually charged by Criminal Information
with one count of criminal impersonation. He was tried before
the Court of Common Pleas without a jury. The only trial
evidence presented was Officer Nikituks testimony. When he
was asked to describe his attempt to identify Evans with the
two false names provided, Officer Nikituk explained:
"With both of those names specifically I dont know if
the name actually populated or not. I know the pictures
didnt match. Either the name didnt populate or the pictures
did not match. It was one or the other."
closing argument, Evans counsel posited that the State
failed to meet its burden because it did not prove that the
name Nasir Evans belonged to a real person which, he argued,
is an element of criminal impersonation. But, the trial court
found Evans guilty of criminal impersonation, holding:
[C]onsidering the totality of the circumstances I understand,
but dont agree with, but understand [the] defense argument
as to the ...