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State v. Solanki

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

November 8, 2019


          Submitted: September 9, 2019

          Angelica Endres, Esquire Deputy Attorney General, Attorney for the State of Delaware

          Joe Hurley, Esquire Attorney for Defendant




         On November 23, 2017, Jaydevsinh Solanki (hereinafter "Defendant") was arrested by Officer Matthew Granas ("Granas") for the offense of Driving a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol ("DUI") in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4177. The facts that gave rise to this charge indicate that Granas observed a black Infinity G35 stopped in the middle of the road, approximately two car lengths behind the traffic light on Marrows Road at the intersection of East Chestnut Hill.[1] Granas approached the running vehicle and observed both occupants slumped over in their seats, either asleep or unconscious. Defendant was in the driver's seat and Daniel Hamill ("Passenger") in the passenger's seat; the time was approximately 3:45 a.m. Granas banged loudly on the front passenger window in an attempt to wake up the occupants. Passenger eventually awoke and Granas requested that he roll down the window and take the keys out of the ignition, Defendant did not wake initially. Once Defendant finally awoke, Granas asked if he needed an ambulance; however, Defendant assured Granas he was just exhausted. Granas questioned whether Defendant and passenger were drinking. Defendant did not answer, but Passenger replied in the affirmative. When Granas asked Defendant and Passenger whether they "had done any drugs," Passenger stated no and Defendant shook his head in the negative. Passenger stated, "we did do some drinking" at Buck's Tavern and Tailgates earlier in the evening. Defendant had a difficult time responding to requests to produce his license, registration and insurance, even attempting to hand police incorrect documents. Moreover, Defendant spent a considerable amount of time staring at the various documents he pulled from the glove compartment, evidentially unable to comprehend what he was looking at. Defendant's actions and movements were noticeably slow throughout the entire encounter. The bodycam recording corroborates Granas's in-court testimony and reveals that Defendant was hard to wake, appeared confused, moved very slowly with often-garbled speech, and was slow to follow instructions.

         Based on these observations, Granas requested Defendant perform National Highway Transport Safety Administration ("NHTSA") Field Sobriety Tests ("FSTs"). Defendant agreed and they walked over to an adjacent parking lot to conduct the tests. Performance of the FSTs was captured on bodycam and entered into evidence by the State. Granas administered the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus ("HGN"), Walk and Turn ("WAT") and One Leg ("OLS") tests. During the HGN, Defendant allegedly exhibited lack of smooth pursuit in his left and right eye, distinct nystagmus at maximum deviation in his left and right eye, and nystagmus onset before 45 degrees in his left and right eye, for a total of six clues.

         During the WAT, Defendant had difficulty maintaining his balance at the start of the test, swayed, raised his arms, stepped off the line multiple times, and missed connecting his heal and toe during the administration of the test. Additionally, Defendant took 17 steps on the return trip, 8 more than the 9 he was instructed to take. All of this is plainly evident on the bodycam recording of the FSTs.

         During the OLS test, Defendant allegedly exhibited difficulty complying with the test instructions and exhibited signs that he was under the influence. At the completion of the FSTs, Defendant was arrested for DUI. A warrant was subsequently obtained for a sample of Defendant's blood, which tested negative for alcohol, but positive for opioids (Morphine) and Benzodiazepine (Alprazolam).

         On March 22, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress ("Motion"). The Court held a hearing on the Motion on July 2, 2019. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the Court took the Motion under advisement. At the request of the Court, the State and Defendant both filed supplemental briefs following the hearing. On August 1, 2019, the State submitted its Motion Hearing Memorandum. On August 9, 2019, Defendant submitted his Memorandum of Law Regarding Invalidity of Blood Collection Search Warrant. On September 5, 2019, Defendant submitted his Reply Memorandum in Support of Suppression of Evidence. On September 9, 2019, the State submitted its Response to Defendant's Memorandum.


         Defendant argues the State did not meet its burden that there was probable cause to find impairment justifying the arrest. In support of this argument, Defendant avers Granas provided no basis to conclude that he had the capabilities necessary to justify an excursion into the privacy afforded Defendant's blood. Defendant contends Granas failed to make a showing that he followed NHTSA standards of FSTs. Specifically, Defendant asserts Granas did not comply with the timing in the implementation of the HGN. Furthermore, Defendant argues the results of the WAT and OLS be given no weight because Granas failed to follow the standardized instruction that must be given in order to ensure reliability. In addition, Defendant asserts Granas failed to make a proper showing that he was qualified and certified to conduct standardized field sobriety test and that he received specialized training in administering and grading all of the FSTs. Moreover, Defendant claims Granas failed to identify in the affidavit the specific tests he administered and Defendant's performance on each, which is required to find the non-scientific WAT and OLS admissible.

         Furthermore, Defendant avers glassy eyes, slurred speech, loss of balance and difficulty following instruction are general, vague and unparticular comments that could be attributed to Defendant being awakened from sleep. Defendant contends he denied drug use, never indicated he drank that night, and that the odor of alcohol was associated with the interior of the car, rather than emanating from his person. Moreover, Defendant states he spoke clearly and had no issues with balance.

         The State argues Granas properly obtained a valid warrant for the seizure and subsequent testing of Defendant's blood. The State asserts Granas provided his current position within the search warrant affidavit, which gave the magistrate the information necessary to find him capable of performing a DUI investigation. Further, the State avers while Granas did not mention the results of the WAT and OLS in the search warrant, Granas did state Defendant was unable to perform either test, which corroborated his awareness of the tests. Moreover, the State claims the magistrate judge could consider the HGN results. However, the State argues if this Court finds the FSTs cannot be part of the analysis, the Court should still evaluate the remaining probable cause contained in the affidavit. The State refers to the vehicle parked and running at an intersection, Defendant sleeping in the driver seat, Passenger admitting to Granas that they were both drinking earlier that night, the odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, Defendant's glassy eyes, slurred speech, loss of balance and difficulty following instructions. The State argues these observations amount to probable cause.

         Additionally, Defendant asserts the search warrant was overly broad in permitting the collection of Defendant's blood sample when there was no probable cause justifying the collected sample for the purpose stated in the affidavit and warrant with regard to drug impairment. Defendant argues the affidavit supplied information regarding alcohol ingestion, not drug ingestion. Defendant states there is no logical, factual, nexus between the facts articulated in the affidavit and authority to collect blood for the purpose of conducting a drug analysis.

         The State avers the search warrant was not overly broad in permitting the collection of a blood sample because there was probable cause justifying the testing. The State argues the search warrant permitted the collection of Defendant's blood for evidence of intoxication in a driving under the influence investigation. Further, the State asserts that an officer has the ability to request blood under all theories. The State argues the affidavit states facts not specifically related to alleged use of alcohol but rather the use of alcohol and/or drugs. The State contends the search warrant affidavit was not limited to a finding of probable cause of use of alcohol but the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Lastly, the State avers the classification of evidence of alcohol and/or drugs was reasonable and a more precise description would not have been feasible.


         For a warrantless arrest, "the State must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Defendant's arrest was supported by probable cause." [2] To establish probable cause for a DUI arrest, the state "must present facts which suggest, when those facts are viewed under the totality of the circumstances, that there is a fair probability that the defendant has committed a DUI offense." [3] This totality consideration is based on "the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act."[4] "The Court must examine the totality of circumstances surrounding the situation as viewed through the 'eyes of a reasonable trained police officer in similar circumstances, combining the objective facts with the officer's subjective interpretation of those facts.'" [5]

         Field Sobriety Tests

         The NHTSA developed FSTs for officers to utilize when evaluating drivers suspected of alcohol and/or drug impairment. NHTSA's 2018 DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) Refresher Guide advises that validation of FSTs only applies when "[t]he tests are administered in the prescribed, standardized manner... [and] [i]f any one of the [FSTs] elements is changed, the validity may be compromised." [6] However, "[n]o Court in this jurisdiction ha[s] concluded that a failure to strictly comply with NHTSA invalidates the test." [7]Nevertheless, sufficient deviation from the NHTSA guidelines can diminish FSTs reliability.[8] Thus, "[t]he court's role is to take note of the deficiencies in the administration of the sobriety test when giving weight and value to the test performed." [9]

         When an officer conducts the WAT, the officer must instruct the subject to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn in a prescribed manner, take nine heel-to-toe steps back, keep arms at one's sides, watch one's feet at all times and count one's steps out loud.[10] Further, the ...

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