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State v. Chapman

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware

May 22, 2019


          Submitted: April 1, 2019

          Brett D. Fallon, Jr., Esquire Assistant Attorney General Attorney for the State of Delaware

          Raj Srivatsan, Esquire Assistant Public Defender Attorney for Defendant


          Hon. Carl C. Danberg, Judge

         The defendant, Lynile Chapman (hereinafter the "Defendant"), stood trial on October 22, 2018, for resisting arrest and possession of marijuana. Upon conclusion of trial, Defendant moved for dismissal of the case based on the police officer's lack of reasonable, articulable suspicion for the stop of Defendant. The Court denied Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, explaining that the charge of resisting arrest survives an illegal arrest. Defendant renewed his Motion to Dismiss and moved for acquittal which are herein denied for the reasons set forth below. Upon Defendant's Motion to Acquit, the Court dismissed, without objection from the State, the charge of possession of marijuana based on the State's failure to meet the burden of proof.[1] Defendant requested the opportunity for briefing on the issue of resisting arrest, which the Court ordered. This is the Final Decision and Order of the Court after trial.


         On December 4, 2017, Defendant was charged with resisting arrest, in violation of 11 Del. C. § 1257(b), and possession of marijuana, in violation of 16 Del. C. 4764(c). On October 22, 2018, a bench trial was held and the charge of Possession of Marijuana was dismissed. A video from the body worn camera ("BWC") of the State's witness and arresting officer, Officer Justin R. Evans (hereinafter "Officer Evans") of the New Castle County Police Department, was viewed during trial. On the evening of December 4, 2017, Officer Evans and a fellow officer were on patrol when Officer Evans observed a sedan parked in the driveway of 116 Parma Avenue with its lights off and engine running. Officer Evans testified that Parma Avenue is located in a high crime area. Officer Evans ran the vehicle registration number and found that the vehicle was not registered to 116 Parma Avenue. After observing two occupants in the vehicle Officer Evans parked down the street to conduct further observation. After twenty minutes of inactivity observed, Officer Evans drove up to 116 Parma Avenue, at which time both occupants exited the subject vehicle. Officer Evans exited his marked patrol SUV and directed Defendant twice to "come here" so that Officer Evans could speak with him. Defendant proceeded to walk away from Officer Evans toward the front door of 116 Parma Avenue. Officer Evans again directed Defendant three times to comply with his orders. Following the third demand, Officer Evans added the warning that Defendant would be tased if he did not stop. Officer Evans then began to jog towards Defendant again stating that Defendant would be tased if he did not stop. Defendant proceeded to open the storm door of the residence, at which time Defendant received a final warning that he would be tased. Defendant then opened the main door of the residence and Officer Evans tased Defendant and took him into custody.


         Defendant argues that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Officer Evans invaded the curtilage of 116 Parma Avenue without probable cause. Further, Defendant contends it has not been proven that Defendant had clear notice that it was police ordering him to stop. Lastly, Defendant argues that a charge under 11 Del. C. § 1257 cannot survive the particular Fourth Amendment violations of this case and the legislative history of 11 Del. C. § 1257 does not contemplate Defendant's scenario.

         The State argues that under no circumstances does Delaware law permit Defendant to resist arrest. Further, the State contends that the legality of the arrest is immaterial to a charge of resisting arrest.


         The issue for the Court to decide is whether Defendant can be convicted of resisting arrest, even if the arrest was unconstitutional. The Court has already dismissed the accompanying charge of Possession of Marijuana. In Delaware, resisting arrest is a class A misdemeanor and occurs when "the person intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer from effecting an arrest or detention of the person or another person or intentionally flees from a peace officer who is effecting an arrest or detention of the person."[2] "The statute does not make a distinction between legal and illegal arrests."[3] "[F]ailure of the Legislature to . . . provide [such a distinction] means that the illegality of the underlying arrest is no defense to a [charge of resisting arrest under 11 Del. C. § 1257]".[4] "The purpose behind the rule that resisting even an illegal arrest constitutes a crime is to foster the effective administration of justice, to deter resistance to arrest and to provide for the safety both of peace officers and the citizens of Delaware."[5] Furthermore, the Fourth Amendment provides sufficient protection to citizens by requiring the exclusion of evidence seized as a result of the illegal arrest.[6]

         After consideration of the aforementioned facts of Defendant's case in conjunction with the law as explicitly stated in Ellison v. State and Jones v. State, the Court finds that a charge of resisting arrest is appropriate here. Ellison and Jones both involve the illegal arrest of a defendant and the suppression of evidence derived from that arrest as the just result. The Ellison court explained, "suppression of . . . evidence provided all the deterrence required by the Fourth Amendment."[7] "This Court does not believe the deterrence goal would be significantly furthered by suppression of police testimony concerning the act of resistance."[8] In Defendant's case, the fruit of the illegal arrest, the alleged discovery of marijuana, has already been dismissed by this Court.

         Defendant allocates a significant portion of his briefs to arguing the illegality of the arrest. It is not necessary for the Court to provide a detailed analysis on this issue, as the legality is not pertinent to the resisting arrest charge here. Defendant further argues that his person was illegally seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. The Court does not disagree that Defendant was seized.[9] In accordance with Jones, Defendant was seized, as a reasonable person would not have felt "at liberty to ignore the police presence and go about his business"[10] after the officer directed him to stop or be tased. Like Jones, consideration of whether one was seized and when such seizure occurred goes towards an evaluation of the legality of the stop which is not pertinent to a charge of resisting arrest. Defendant also contends that seizure of a person on the curtilage of their home at night should be analyzed differently from a seizure occurring in a public place, as the Fourth Amendment provides heightened protections to one's home, especially at night. While the protections of the Fourth Amendment apply differently in various scenarios, Defendant provides no case on point with this requested exception. In fact, Defendant relies on cases which are either distinguishable or support the opposing argument.

         Defendant relies on State v. Wisneski, [11] wherein the Delaware Superior Court affirmed a Court of Common Pleas decision suppressing an officer's testimony regarding events that transpired in a private home while affecting an arrest. The circumstances gave rise to charges of offensive touching and hindering arrest against third parties. In his argument, Defendant omits pivotal information forming the basis of the Wisneski decision.[12]

         In Wisneski, an officer was pursuing a subject who had a warrants for his arrest for failure to respond to traffic citations. The officer chased the subject into his residence, encountering the subject's mother and brother during the pursuit. The mother and brother made contact with the officer and were charged with offensive touching and hindering arrest. In Wisneski, the Court discusses at length the importance of the knock and announce requirement and why, under the exclusionary rule's balancing test, the Court decided to suppress the testimony of the officer. Significantly, the Court explained that the facts of Wisneski were distinguishable from Ellison where the defendant was convicted of resisting an illegal arrest. Unlike Ellison, the defendants in Wisneski were not even charged with resisting arrest and were not the subjects of the arrest warrants. In contrast to the facts in the case at bar, in Wisneski, "[t]he privacy interests at stake were not those of the original lawbreaker, but of ones who prior to the entry were not under suspicion of any criminal act."[13] It is with these facts in mind that the Court reasoned that the exclusionary "rule requires courts to balance the societal cost of losing reliable and competent evidence against the probable effectuation and enhancement of Fourth Amendment principles"[14]and emphasized that the rule "remains a strong remedy against unreasonable police intrusions into private homes which is at the very core of the Fourth Amendment."[15]

         Like Ellison, but distinguishable from Wisneski, Defendant is the subject of the arrest underlying the charge of resisting arrest and here, the police did not enter the home. Defendant is attempting to extrapolate the facts of Wisneski to ...

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