Friday, December 21, 2012

NC Supreme Court Decisions, December 14, 2012

State v. Heien. Review of COA finding that a traffic stop was illegal.

The Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that the there was no reasonable basis for a traffic stop--finding that one broken brake light does not give rise to reasonable suspicion (during the stop, the officer asked for permission to search and found drugs).

The COA relied on this language, "section 20-129(d) required that “[e]very motor
vehicle . . . have all originally equipped rear lamps or the equivalent in good
working order, which lamps shall exhibit a red light plainly visible under normal
atmospheric conditions from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of such vehicle.” to show that "a red light" was adequate, not requiring two.

Justice Newby and Supremes reversed holding that an officer's mistake of law will not invalidate an otherwise lawful stop, even if no law has been violated. The officer reasonably believed that the law was violated, due to the broken lamp. The fact that the law turned out to be otherwise doesn't matter.

Justice Hudson, the Chief, and Timmons-Goodson dissented.

Yowzers!


State v. Burrow. Vacate and remand.

Allows state to amend the record on appeal to show defense counsel was notified of intent to introduce a crime lab report and vacates the decisions below (lack of notice was basis for decision below).

State v. Lindsey. Per curiam reversal, for reasons in dissent.

COA Decision here: (description below from old Blogpost).

 Officer tried to stop a "bluish" van with the first letter W in it's license plate. The van got away. Later, a  "greenish-bluish" van crashed into a light pole near a windows. A black male with a "plaidish-type" shirt ran away. Police found a blunt wrapper in the van and a bag with some cocaine and marijuana in it in a trash can in the Wendy's parking lot. Defendant was apprehended.

All charges should have been dismissed for insufficient evidence.

1) Felony speeding to elude arrest: no evidence presented that this was the same van. Bluish van and one letter of the license plate. That's it. Insufficient evidence.

2) Possession of drugs: insufficient evidence for constructive possession. Items found in a trash can that weren't under defendant's exclusive control. Must have other incriminating factors to infer his possession. The fact that defendant wrecked a car in the vicinity, had blunt papers in the car, and ran are not enough. Insufficient evidence.


Steelman dissents on flee/elude and possession of marijuana; concurs on possession of cocaine.



State v. Rico. Per curium reversal of COA decision based on dissent.

Ordering that the entire plea must be set aside where there was a material mistake of law in the agreement. See COA decision/dissent here.


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