Submitted: October 8, 2019
Rank, Esquire Deputy Attorney General Attorney for the State
A. Foley, Esquire Attorney for Defendant
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE
CARL C. DANBERG, JUDGE
Cristian Mendez-Garcia was arrested and charged for Driving
Under the Influence ("DUI") in violation of 21 Del.
C. § 4177(a)(1). Defendant timely filed the present
Motion to Suppress Evidence ("Motion") in which he
seeks to suppress all evidence gathered by the New Castle
County Police, including the results of the intoxilyzer test
administered to Defendant. Defendant alleges that the field
sobriety tests conducted by the officer were not consistent
with National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
("NHTSA") standards and that the officer did not
have probable cause to arrest Defendant. The State opposes
Defendant's Motion, arguing that the field sobriety tests
were administered in compliance with NHTSA. Alternatively,
the State argues that absent the field sobriety tests, the
officer had probable cause to arrest Defendant based on the
officer's observations of the Defendant.
October 8, 2019, the Court held a suppression hearing. At the
conclusion of the hearing, the Court took the matter under
advisement. This is the Final Decision of the Court on
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 8, 2019, the Court held a hearing on Defendant's
Motion. At the hearing, State witness and arresting officer
Corporal Shultz testified as to her training and experience
with DUI cases, as well as the certification process for DUI
training. She testified that at approximately 6:30
a.m. on the morning of March 30, 2019, she was on patrol duty
and wearing a body camera when she was called out to the area
of Danbury Drive in New Castle County, Delaware, for a
vehicle collision investigation. Upon arriving at the scene,
she approached Defendant, who was standing outside of the
vehicle in question.
Shultz asked Defendant for his registration and insurance
card, but Defendant was unable to produce his physical
driver's license. While Defendant gathers his
registration and insurance information, Defendant admitted to
Corporal Shultz that his license was suspended due to
entering a guilty plea and being sentenced on a prior DUI. At
this time, she observed Defendant smelled of alcohol and had
bloodshot eyes. Additionally, Defendant admitted to drinking
alcohol on the day in question. Corporal Shultz determined
that a collision involving Defendant did occur and testified
that pieces of the car light from Defendant's car were
found near the victim's car.
Shultz testified Defendant was willing to cooperate with
field sobriety tests. Corporal Shultz proceeded to conduct
three field sobriety tests including, the horizontal gaze
nystagmus test ("HGN"), the walk-and-turn test, and
the one-leg-stand test. Corporal Shultz testified that
Defendant exhibited all six clues for HGN, two clue for the
walk-and-turn test and zero clues for the one-leg-stand test.
Ultimately, as a result of the field sobriety tests, Corporal
Shultz administered a portable breathalyzer test
("PBT") on Defendant.
the October 8, 2019, suppression hearing, Corporal Shultz
testified that she was wearing a body camera during the March
30, 2019, encounter with Defendant, and that the video fairly
and accurately reflected her recollection of the incident.
The body camera footage was played during the October 8,
2019, suppression hearing and admitted into evidence. Through
this video and audio footage, the Court observed the accident
scene and the Defendant's conduct.
recorded statements, while perhaps not admissions per say,
certainly weigh against Defendant under the totality of the
circumstances. The Defendant admitted to backing up too
quickly and striking a parked car. On numerous occasions.
Defendant made statements using expletive language describing
how bad he messed up; that he should have taken an Uber or
Lift, and that he had ruined his life. While Corporal Shultz
was attempting to administer the HGN, Defendant was having
difficulty keeping his head still and struggled to follow the
stimulus with only his eyes. Corporal Shultz repeatedly
advised Defendant to stop moving his head, and suggested he
stop talking and focus on the stimulus. Even after this
warning, Defendant continued to make profanity laced
Shultz testified to both her specialized training and the
NHTSA standards with regard to the HGN test only. Corporal
Shultz did not testify as to her specialized training or the
NHTSA standards for the walk-and-turn or one-leg-stand tests.
Corporal Shultz did briefly discuss the clues an officer
looks for when conducting the walk-and-turn and the
Shultz testified that there are eight clues to the
walk-and-turn test. According to Corporal Shultz's
testimony, there are two stages to the walk-and-turn test. At
the first stage, or the instruction stage, there are two
clues; (1) that Defendant does not start the test too early;
and (2) that Defendant can maintain balance. At the second
stage of the test, or the walking stage, there are six clues.
The six clues are whether the Defendant; (1) missed a heel to
toe; (2) steps off the line; (3) uses their arms for balance;
(4) raises arms; (5) turns incorrectly; or (6) stops
walking prior to completion of the test.
the one-leg-stand test, Corporal Shutlz testified that there
are four clues officers look for while conducting the test.
The four clues consist of whether Defendant; (1) puts their
foot down; (2) uses their arms for balance; (3) sways; or (4)
the field sobriety tests, Corporal Shultz administered a PBT.
Corporal Shultz testified that it is standard practice to
wait fifteen minutes after coming in contact with a defendant
to administer a PBT, and that she did wait fifteen minutes
before administering the PBT to Defendant. After conducting
the PBT, Corporal Shultz arrested Defendant and transported
Defendant back to the New Castle County Police Station, where
an intoxilyzer test was administered on Defendant.
generally argues that Corporal Shultz's administration of
the field sobriety tests were conducted in a manner not
consistent with NHTSA standards. Defendant asserts that
Corporal Shultz did not have probable cause to place
Defendant under arrest after administering the field sobriety
tests. Defendant additionally argues that the length of
detention constitutes an arrest of Defendant as it was not
"carefully tailored to its underlying
justification," and therefore, probable cause for arrest
was necessary. Defendant argues the arresting officer did
not have probable cause for Defendant's arrest and
transportation to ...