State v. Julius, the Automobile Exception, and the Exclusionary Rule

Joanna Julius was riding as a passenger in her parents’ car in McDowell County when the person driving the car crashed it into a ditch filled with water. The driver fled the scene. Law enforcement officers responded and searched the car for evidence of the driver’s identity. When they found drugs inside, they arrested Julius and searched her backpack. There, they found more drugs, a pistol, and cash.

Julius was indicted for drug trafficking and related offenses. She moved to suppress the evidence gathered at the scene on the basis that the car was unlawfully searched. The trial court disagreed, and Julius was convicted. She appealed. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed. Last month, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed, holding that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. See State v. Julius, ___ N.C. ___, 892 S.E.2d 854 (2023). This post will discuss the court’s analysis of whether the search was lawful and its remanding of the case for consideration of whether the exclusionary rule barred admission of the resulting evidence.

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