In line with hints in previous opinions and with federal appellate decisions, we hold that there is no Fourth Amendment “search” when police run a license plate check. Therefore, an officer does not need reasonable suspicion to investigate a plainly visible license plate number.
Our reading of relevant statutes in G.S. Chapter 20 leads us to the conclusion that driving with a medically canceled license is a misdemeanor, so officers could arrest defendant without a warrant. After arresting defendant for driving with a medically canceled license, officers could search defendant incident to his arrest.
We reverse the trial court’s grant of defendant’s motion to suppress the methamphetamine found on his person.
Because a medically canceled license is “void and terminated” under G.S. § 20-4.01(2), the offense of driving with a medically canceled license is comparable to the offense of driving without a license. G.S. § 20-35(a) states generally, “Except as otherwise provided in subsection (a1) or (a2) of this section, a violation of this Article is a Class 2 misdemeanor unless a statute in the Article sets a different punishment for the violation.” The offense that defendant was alleged to have committed does not fall within the enumerated exceptions of § 20-35(a1)-(a2) or another statute; thus, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
The officers had probable cause to arrest defendant and to search defendant incident to his arrest. Accordingly, the officers lawfully seized the evidence discovered during the search of defendant incident to his arrest.
State v. Duncan (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-004-23, 16 pp.) (Valerie Zachary, J.) Appealed from Catawba County Superior Court (Donnie Hoover, J.) Nicholas Sanders for the state; Edgar Halstead for defendant. 2023-NCCOA-5