The Delaware Supreme Court held this week that a convicted felon could not be resentenced for violating his parole, after probation officers made “no attempt” to comply with basic rules governing a search of his home.
A three-judge panel of the high court Thursday overturned a lower court’s ruling and faulted the officers for acting on a tip from an informant without taking any steps to verify the information or assess the informant’s credibility.
The search, which turned up more than 300 bags of heroin, a loaded gun and other drugs and paraphernalia, could not be used in new criminal case against the man, Kevin A. Walker, but a Superior Court judge allowed the evidence into separate proceedings, which found that Walker had violated the terms of his parole for a felony conviction of driving under the influence.
According to the opinion, officers received a tip in 2017 that Walker had heroin in his home and planned to distribute it. During the search, they found 252 bags of heroin, drug paraphernalia and a locked safe containing a loaded 9mm and five grams of marijuana. When correctional officers searched Walker at the Sussex County Correctional Institution, they discovered 86 more bags of heroin and nine bags of crack cocaine hidden in Walker’s rectum, court documents said.
Under Delaware law, officers are required to assess the consistency of informants’ information, as well as the reliability of the informants and any reasons they might have for supplying the information. The Superior Court found that there was a lack of detail concerning the tip and that no effort was made to corroborate the information, but held that exclusion did not apply to the violation of parole proceedings.
In a seven-page opinion, Justice James T. Vaughn Jr. accepted the court’s finding regarding the search and said that the evidence should have been barred across the board.
“Because there was no attempt to comply with basic aspects of the probation procedure, we think that the proper and orderly administration of justice calls for suppression,” Vaughn wrote in a seven-page opinion.
A spokesman for the Delaware Department of Justice, which argued the appeal, did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
An attorney for Walker was not immediately available to comment.
The case was captioned Walker v. State.