Court upheld the suspension of motorist’s driver’s license (and CDL) based on probable cause to believe motorist was driving a motor vehicle, was impaired, was offered and refused a Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test after implied consent warnings were read to him.
Probable cause was based on the officer following motorist into a Shore Stop store, not observing any erratic driving, but observing motorist’s staggering as he left his vehicle and exhibiting significant signs of impairment when contacted inside the store. Officer began 20-minute observation period, during which he had motorist perform various physical tests, which he largely failed. Implied consent warnings were read—motorist refused the Intoxilyzer test.
“In this case, regarding the violation of section 4177, the only issue which the Court needs to address is whether the evidence at the hearing supported a finding of probable cause to arrest the appellant for driving under the influence. The Court is not at liberty to substantiate its findings of fact for those of the hearing officer so long as the findings of fact made by the hearing officer are supported by substantial evidence. As noted above, the implied consent aspect of this case eliminates any need to discuss whether a preponderance of the evidence indicates that Appellant violated 21 Del.C. § 4177. In State v. Maxwell, the Delaware Supreme Court set forth the applicable standard to determine if probable cause exists to arrest someone for violating 21 Del.C. § 4177.
[The Delaware Supreme] Court has held that a police officer has probable cause to believe a defendant has violated 21 Del.C. § 4177 (Driving under the Influence of Alcohol) “when the officer possesses ‘information which would warrant a reasonable man in believing that [such] a crime has been committed.’ ” (citations omitted) A finding of probable cause does not require the police to uncover information sufficient to prove a suspect’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, or even to prove that guilt is more likely than not. (citation omitted) To establish probable cause, the police are only required to 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 crime. (citation omitted) The possibility that there may be hypothetically innocent explanation for each of several facts revealed during the course of an investigation does not preclude a determination that probable cause exists for an arrest. (citation omitted) (emphasis in original).
“Here, the officer had sufficient facts to find probable cause that Appellant had violated section 4177. Corporal McGee testified that he witnessed Appellant driving the van. While Appellant disputes the officer’s location at and approach to the scene, it is uncontroverted that Appellant exited the vehicle from the driver’s door and then staggered across the parking lot in one direction before proceeding in the opposite direction into the store. Corporal McGee then entered the store and further observed Appellant. The officer approached Appellant and asked him for his driver’s credentials.3 Corporal McGee detected a strong odor of alcohol once he neared the Appellant. In addition, Appellant’s speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and glassy. Upon being taken back to the troop, Appellant passed two sobriety tests and failed one. Then, after partially performing the HGN test, Appellant refused to comply further with that test or with any of the other tests requested (walk-and-turn test; one-leg-stand test; finger-to-nose test). Additionally, at the original scene of the stop, Appellant had refused to do a portable breath test. These facts indicate a “fair probability” that Appellant had violated 11 Del.C. § 4177(a). State v. Maxwell, supra.; see also Zern v. Division of Motor Vehicles, Del.Super., C.A. No. 93A-08-014, DelPesco, J. (July 1, 1994) (refusal to take field sobriety tests considered a factor in determining the existence of probable cause.).
Court held that the Hearing Officer’s denial of an “S” endorsement on motorist’s commercial driver’s license was error where motorist had previously entered a plea of nolo contendere to a charge of possession of marijuana in the Family Court of the State of Delaware, holding that the adjudication upon the status of a child (i.e. determination that motorist was then delinquent) was not a “conviction.”
“The rationale for the decision of the hearing officer is based on 21 Del. C. § 2708(b) 7. The above section provides that to qualify for an “S” endorsement an applicant must never have been convicted of the crime of possession of a controlled substance. The Division contends that the appellant was convicted of the charge of possession of marijuana in the Family Court. The Division is incorrect.
10 Del. C. § 1002 provides that no child shall be deemed a criminal by virtue of an allegation or adjudication of delinquency. A Family Court adjudication of delinquency is a civil proceeding. G.D. v. State, 389 A.2d 764, 765 (Del.1978). The proceedings against a child charged in the Family Court with a violation of a state law are not criminal in concept or in practice. State v. J.K., 383 A.2d 283, 286 (Del.1977). In the Family Court, the charge is a general one of delinquency. 10 Del.C. Sec.921(1).
“The Family Court record indicates that the appellant was before that Court for trial on two counts of juvenile delinquency. Therefore, the only finding that could have been made by the Court is an adjudication of delinquency. Accordingly, the defendant’s record from the State Bureau of Identification that shows a disposition of guilty of a controlled substance is incorrect because the appellant was only adjudicated a delinquent.
Based on the above conclusions of law, the decision of the hearing officer denying the appellant an “S” endorsement on her CDL license is reversed and the Division of Motor Vehicles is hereby ordered to grant the appellant an “S” endorsement on her CDL license.
Court upheld determination that motorist was an habitual traffic offender based on three prior violations of driving without a license and once for driving with a suspended/revoked license to which she had pled guilty—rejecting her claim that that all such pleas were the product of ineffective assistance of counsel. Motorist’s license was revoked for five years.
The State of Delaware challenges the sua sponte decision of the Court of Common Pleas to excuse Appellee Valerie I. Anderson (“Anderson”) from habitual driving offender status shortly after it had declared that she met the qualifying criteria. The lower court acted in an attempt to remedy a perceived inequity in the State’s conduct of habitual offender proceedings over the course of a day’s hearing calendar. Upon review of the record and applicable law, the Court finds that this well-intentioned demonstration of sympathy constituted an abuse of discretion.
Revocation of motorist’s license for refusing to submit to an intoxilyzer test was supported by substantial evidence. Motorist was stopped by an officer after he witnessed her driving on a flat tire. After submitting to various field sobriety tests, motorist was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and taken to the police station for an intoxilyzer test, which she refused. Motorist’s license was revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) due to her failure to submit to a chemical test. Motorist argued that the revocation was improper because the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop her or probable cause to arrest her. Officer had reasonable suspicion to stop motorist due to her driving on a flat tire, creating an unsafe condition and had probable cause to arrest her based on an odor of alcohol, glassy eyes, failing to stop at police signal, and motorist’s admission she had been drinking.
Traffic stop of motorist was supported by probable cause that a traffic violation had occurred, and thus the revocation of motorist’s driver’s license by the Division of Motor Vehicles was warranted for his failure to submit to a breath test during the stop. According to the police officer who stopped motorist, motorist failed to timely signal his intention to turn as required by statute. Based upon such probable cause, the traffic stop was valid at its commencement. The fact that the officer did not subsequently cite motorist for failure to timely signal his intention to turn did not affect the validity of the traffic stop. Decision of Court of Common Pleas to the contrary was reversed.
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