State v. Reed (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-010-18, 17 pp.) (Robert Hunter Jr., J.) (Chris Dillon, J., dissenting) Appealed from Johnston County Superior Court (Thomas Lock, J.) On remand from the N.C. Supreme Court. N.C. App.
Holding: On remand from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals again reverses the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress the fruits of the search of his car after an extended traffic stop.
Reversed and remanded.
We are bound by State v. Bullock, ___ N.C. ___ (Nov. 3, 2017) (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-071-17). Therefore, we must conclude that State Trooper Lamm’s actions of requiring defendant to exit his car, frisking him, and making him sit in the patrol car while he ran records checks and questioned defendant, did not unlawfully extend the traffic stop. Yet, this case is distinguishable from Bullock because, after Trooper Lamm returned defendant’s paperwork and issued the warning ticket, defendant remained unlawfully seized in the patrol car.
When the trooper left the patrol car to seek the consent of defendant’s passenger, Usha Peart (who had rented the car), to search the rental car, he told defendant to “sit tight.” At this point, a second trooper was standing directly beside the passenger door of Trooper Lamm’s vehicle where defendant sat. Moreover, at trial Trooper Lamm admitted that, at this point, defendant was not allowed to leave the patrol car.
To detain a driver by prolonging the traffic stop, an officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion that illegal activity is afoot. As we concluded in our first opinion, Trooper Lamm did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify prolonging the traffic stop.
The facts suggest defendant appeared nervous, Peart held a dog in her lap, dog food was scattered across the floorboard of the vehicle, the car contained air fresheners, trash, and energy drinks – all of which constitute legal activity consistent with lawful travel.
These facts are distinguishable from Bullock in which the officer observed the defendant “speeding, following a truck too closely, and weaving briefly over the white line marking the edge of the road.” Then Bullock’s hand trembled as he handed over his license. Additionally, Bullock was not the authorized driver on his rental agreement, he had two cell phones and a substantial amount of cash on his person. He failed to maintain eye contact, and made several contradictory, illogical statements.
After reconsideration of our prior opinion in light of Bullock, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion to suppress because, after the lawful duration of the traffic stop concluded, Trooper Lamm unlawfully detained defendant without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
(Dillon, J.) Because Trooper Lamm obtained defendant’s consent to search the rental vehicle after the traffic stop had concluded and defendant was otherwise free to leave, I respectfully dissent.
Even assuming, arguendo, that Trooper Lamm’s exchange with defendant following the conclusion of the traffic stop was non-consensual, Trooper Lamm had reasonable suspicion of separate, independent criminal activity to support an extension of the traffic stop beyond the time necessary to complete the mission of citing defendant for the traffic violation.
The seizure ended when Trooper Lamm gave the warning ticket, along with defendant’s paperwork, to defendant and told defendant that the traffic stop was completed.
It was constitutionally permissible for Trooper Lamm, for purposes of officer safety, to direct defendant to remain in the patrol car while he carried out the search that defendant had voluntarily consented to.
Since defendant gave his consent to search the car after the traffic stop had concluded and the encounter between defendant and Trooper Lamm became consensual, I would affirm the trial court’s order.