Evidence suppressed after Smyrna man successfully contests vehicle search

John G. Geist

John G. Geist

DOVER — With no valid basis for a vehicle search during a summer traffic stop south of Smyrna, any evidence located by police can’t be presented at trial, according to a court order on Monday.

John G. Geist, 44, of the first block of Stanley Avenue in Smyrna, contested a Delaware State Police troo oper’s actions after he was stopped for allegedly speeding on U.S. 13 south of Smyrna on July 22.

According to Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young, police had no reasonable suspicion when asking Mr. Geist to allow a vehicle search after the process of issuing a speeding ticket was completed on Messina Hill Road.

The speeding ticket brought a pending $20 fine, $20 in court costs, and $10 to the state’s Victim Compensation Fund, according to court documents.

Mr. Geist was also charged with two counts of possession of a firearm/ammunition by person prohibited, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. He was arraigned through Justice of the Peace Court 2 in Rehoboth Beach and the case was transferred to the Kent County Court of Common Pleas.

The state argued that since Mr. Geist wasn’t coerced into approving of the search when asked, his consent was enough to make it legal.

Though Mr. Geist agreed to let police search the vehicle, “To say that a reasonable person, standing at the instruction of the officer outside his vehicle, while wearing sandals, shorts and no shirt, confronting two fully uniformed and armed officers would feel no coercion effect simply flies in the face of reality,” Judge Young wrote in a four-page order.

According to the order, a trooper “spontaneously asked Defendant if he had any drugs or weapons in the vehicle,” after the speeding matter was completed and police told Mr. Geist that he was “free to go.”

“He then asked Defendant if he had any questions,” Judge Young wrote. “Defendant asked about the amount of his speeding fine.”

After Mr. Geist told police there were no drugs or weapons in his vehicle, the order stated, a trooper asked if he could search the automobile.

“Defendant, after a fashion, consented,” according to the order.

“Certainly, if there had existed any reasonable suspicion on the part of Officer Hamilton that any such contraband were present, a warrant to search, at least arguably, could have been obtained, and consent of the Defendant would have substituted entirely adequately.

“There was, however, in this case, utterly no basis for any suspicion.”

Also, according to the order, “Other than unspecific ‘thought that he might be under the influence of alcohol,’ Officer Hamilton had utterly no basis for any suspicion that Defendant was transporting anything untoward.”

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