Consider a fact pattern that takes place every day, all across the country: a police officer stops a motorist for a traffic infraction, runs the motorist’s license through a computer database and finds nothing exceptional, and returns the driver’s license and registration, perhaps along with a warning or a citation. The officer then asks the driver for consent to search the driver’s car. The driver consents and the officer finds drugs. Did the officer do anything wrong in this situation? Are the drugs subject to suppression? The answers depend on whether the traffic stop ended when the officer returned the driver’s license. As a recent case shows, that can be a complex determination.
In State v. Parker, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2022 WL 4850255 (Oct. 4, 2022), the Court of Appeals considered the warrantless search of a vehicle that took place at a gas station. The court upheld the legality of the search based on probable cause that the vehicle contained evidence of drug activity. In the course of its opinion, the court stated that “the automobile exception [to the warrant requirement] . . . requires that the vehicle be in a public vehicular area.” Is that right?
This post summarizes published criminal decisions released by the North Carolina Court of Appeals on April 20, 2021.
This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on February 16, 2021. Gabrielle Supak and Shea Denning prepared these summaries. As always, they will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present.
This post summarizes published criminal opinions of the Court of Appeals decided on July 7, 2020.