Trial date set for Clayton Police chief

DOVER — The Court of Common Pleas jury trial of a northern Kent County police chief charged with DUI after his disabled vehicle was found on railroad tracks over a year ago is scheduled for the morning of Oct 22 at the Kent County Courthouse.

Clayton Chief Brian C. Hill, 48, of Dover, pleaded not guilty after being charged with misdemeanor first offense driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and a failure to remain within a single violation for an alleged incident on Sunnyside Road in Smyrna at around 10 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2017. The chief was placed on paid administrative leave shortly afterward after town council consulted its attorney.

Last week, CCP Judge Anne Hartnett Reigle cited Delaware State Police-recorded statements made by Chief Hill at the scene, among other points, when denying to suppress intoxilyzer test results conducted by a trooper in a 10-page order.

Attorney James E. Liguori is representing Chief Hill, with Deputy Attorney General John W. Donahue prosecuting for the state.

Brian C. Hill

The defense earlier argued that an investigating trooper failed to establish probable cause after field sobriety tests at Troop 9 in Odessa “because they were conducted improperly or were insufficient …,” Judge Reigle wrote. The defense, according to the Court, opined “that an odor of alcohol and a traffic violation was insufficient to establish ‘probable cause. “

Also, the defense maintained that Chief Hill was improperly taken from the scene for further testing based on case law, according to the order.

The state argued that probable cause did reasonably exist at the scene and validated an arrest, and was a necessity due to rainy weather, the judge said.

Additionally, a 20-minute observation period was correctly made, the state said in its argument to deny the motion to dismiss the intoxilyzer results.

Judge Reigle referenced “several cases where the Courts have found that the police officer had ‘probable cause’ to arrest the defendant at the scene for driving under the influence of alcohol without the addition of field sobriety tests.

“These cases typically involve motor vehicle accidents where individuals have been transported to the hospital or where due to the nature of the incident the probable cause to believe that the defendant had driven under the influence of alcohol was overwhelming.”

Judge’s discussion

In her discussion, Judge Reigle pointed to Chief Hill’s familiarity with the area as a patrol officer and “The railroad tracks were marked with two signs and there were no other roads nearby for which the railroad tracks could be mistaken, This was a significant make in driving which demonstrated a significant likelihood that the driver was impaired.”

The trooper also reported the driver supposedly “smelled of alcohol, had glassy eyes and that his speech was stuttered. Mr. Hill admitted that he was the driver and that he was at fault.

“He also incriminated himself by asking (the trooper) to help him out of a bad situation and calling a friend and fellow officer, rather than a tow truck.”

Judge Reigle concluded that “under the ‘totality of circumstances’ test as defined by case law” the trooper had probable cause to make an arrest.

Also, the order stated, “The Court is convinced that (the trooper) satisfied the (20) minute observation period before he had Mr. Hill take the intoxilyzer test …”

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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