Driver’s motion to suppress evidence in DUI case denied

DOVER — Evidence involving a woman who apparently prompted her own felony DUI arrest last spring can be used at trial, a Superior Court judge ruled on Wednesday.

According to a nine-page order, Lori L. Sapp’s counsel argued for suppressing all evidence regarding an encounter with Delaware State Police last May 18 that ended with a DUI of drugs charge.

In his order, Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. described the matter as “not a close case.”

Determining facts indicated that Ms. Sapp stopped her vehicle on U.S. 13 just outside Camden and told a trooper investigating an unrelated car crash that her purse had been stolen, documents said.

The trooper advised Ms. Sapp that she could either drive to the nearby Waffle House to await his assistance, or go home and report the accusation by phone.

Documents said Ms. Sapp drove to the Waffle House to wait in her vehicle and was contacted by the trooper approximately 30 minutes later.

According to papers, the trooper noticed Ms. Sapp “had difficulty keeping her balance and stumbled out of her car. She had glassy, glazed-over eyes and constricted pupils.

“Her speech was slow and slurred and she seemed confused at the time.”

Also, the court reasoned, “Ms. Sapp voluntarily stated that she was taking prescription medications including (at least possibly) an excess dose of Xanax.

“The officer had probable cause to administer a PBT and arrest her for DUI after hearing those statements, even before engaging in the additional tests.”

The trooper administered field tests, documents said, some of which indicated possible impairment. Ms. Sapp was taken into custody and consented in writing to voluntarily take a blood draw. A Portable Breathalyzer Test registered 0.00 percent.

Defense lawyery John Garey maintained the trooper did not have reasonable suspicion to detain Ms. Sapp, according to the order, and “lacked probable cause to arrest her for” DUI of drugs.

Deputy Attorney General Ben Snyder argued for the state.

Judge Witham denied a motion to suppress evidence, noting that Ms. Sapp “initiated the encounter with police and voluntarily consented to her participation in the eventual blood draw.

“The officer had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to ask Ms. Sapp to participate in the field sobriety tests.”

In a suppression motion hearing, “Ms. Sapp argued that the lack of a motor vehicle recording entitled her to suppression,” Judge Witham noted.

“But it is well-established [in case law] that police are under no ‘affirmative duty to video record all driving under the influence investigations,’ “

Ms. Sapp’s contention that the trooper’s lack of Drug Recognition Expert certification disqualified him also fell short. Judge Witham pointed to his DUI training, “which encompassed impairment caused by both alcohol and drugs, and patrol experience were sufficient for him to testify to the results of the field sobriety tests and his opinion of her impairment for the purposes of the hearing on this motion.

“Ms. Sapp has pointed to no case law to the contrary.”

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