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Criminal Practice — Search & Seizure – Checkpoint – Reasonableness – Balancing Inquiry

Criminal Practice — Search & Seizure – Checkpoint – Reasonableness – Balancing Inquiry

State v. McDonald (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-07-0203, 21 pp.) (Mark Davis, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County Superior Court (Hugh Lewis, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: Although the trial court found that the primary programmatic purpose of the checkpoint at issue was “To increase police presence in the targeted area while checking for Operator’s License and Vehicle Registration violations,” the trial court failed to assess the reasonableness of the checkpoint.

We vacate the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress and remand for further findings and conclusions

Contrary to defendant’s argument, we do not believe an attempt to increase police presence in an affected area while conducting a checkpoint for a recognized lawful purpose is akin to operating a checkpoint for the general detection of crime. As the state notes in its brief, any checkpoint inherently results in the increased presence of law enforcement officers in the subject area.

However, the trial court erroneously based its decision on State v. Barnes, 123 N.C. App. 144, 472 S.E.2d 784 (1996), which has been superseded by intervening case law. The decision should instead have been based on State v. Veazey, 191 N.C. App. 181, 662 S.E.2d 683 (2008).

After determining the checkpoint’s primary programmatic purpose, the trial court should have gone on to weigh the concerns set out in Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979). We remand to allow it to do so.

Vacated and remanded.


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