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North Carolina v. Whitehead

Filed: August 7, 1979.


Appeal by defendant from Browning, Judge. Judgment entered 17 January 1979 in Superior Court, Dare County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 25 June 1979.

Morris, Chief Judge. Judges Parker and Martin (Harry C.) concur.


The primary question presented by defendant's appeal concerns whether evidence and inculpatory statements obtained from the defendant after his arrest should have been suppressed. Defendant contends that his detention by the Tyrrell County deputy for nearly an hour constituted an arrest, that the deputy did not have probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and that defendant had committed that crime, and that, therefore, his statements and the evidence obtained as a result of a search of his automobile after his arrest were products of the illegal arrest and thus inadmissible against him at trial. See generally Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 83 S. Ct. 407, 9 L. Ed. 2d 441 (1963); Silverthorne Lumber Company v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, 40 S. Ct. 182, 64 L. Ed. 319 (1920). Moreover, defendant argues that the Miranda warnings given to him prior to questioning did not "purge the primary taint" of the unlawful arrest. See Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 95 S. Ct. 2254, 45 L. Ed. 2d 416 (1975). The State argues that there was sufficient probable cause when the actual arrest was effectuated and, in the alternative,

argues that the search was consensual and the inculpatory statements were voluntarily given.

Following is a summary of the evidence, elicited on the voir dire held in connection with defendant's motion to suppress, with respect to the circumstances surrounding defendant's detention, the search of his car, and his statements to law enforcement officers. Manteo Police Officer Robert D. Mauldin was on patrol in the early morning hours of 30 November 1978. As he approached Tillett Motor Company on U.S. Highway 64-264 in Manteo at about 2:30 a.m., he observed a vehicle (which he later learned was a bluish-green Gremlin) leaving at a high rate of speed the general vicinity of the self-service gas pumps. He pursued the vehicle west for approximately eight miles as far as Mann's Harbor, but he was unable to intercept it or to get a license number. He returned to the gas station and discovered that the currency operated self-service apparatus connected with the unleaded gas pump had been broken open. He then radioed the Dare County dispatcher requesting that a message be relayed to Tyrrell County, which lies west of Dare County, "to be on the lookout for a blue Pacer, with a dark blue stripe, and to stop it and hold it for questioning." Officer Mauldin testified: "I did not indicate at that time in the broadcast any suspicions to Tyrrell County of what the car was being stopped for. I did not have any warrants for anybody's arrest at that particular time." Tyrrell County officials were notified at approximately 3:00 a.m. to stop the car. Mauldin stated that he did not know when the Tyrrell County deputy was informed of the specific reason for which defendant was detained when he testified, "The first time Tyrrell County was informed of the reason for stopping this car was when the Sheriff's Department dispatcher advised him, but I could not tell you what time it was, as I was not in the office at that time."

Sometime between 3:20 a.m. and 3:40 a.m. defendant's car was stopped by a Tyrrell County deputy sheriff in Tyrrell County. Officer Mauldin received a call from the Tyrrell County Sheriff's Department identifying defendant and another passenger as the occupants of the car. Mauldin then obtained arrest warrants from a Dare County magistrate and proceeded to Tyrrell County to have the warrants served. The warrants were served, and, Mauldin testified, defendant gave him permission to search the car. He found one tire tool located between the front

bucket seats and one .38 caliber Derringer under the passenger's seat. No money was found.

Officer Mauldin testified that he first talked with defendant about the crime after he returned him to Manteo around 6:00 a.m. Between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Deputy Billy Brown of the Dare County Sheriff's Department advised defendant of his rights, obtained his signature on a waiver of rights form, and proceeded to interrogate him. Defendant's verbal statement implicated him in each of the break-ins.

Defendant was also questioned by Lieutenant David Griggs of the Kill Devil Hills Police Department at approximately 12:00 noon on 30 November 1978. Officer Griggs went to Manteo after he heard that two subjects were being held there for forcibly breaking into currency operated machines. Early that morning he had been called to investigate a similar crime reported at the Kill Devil Hills Amoco station. He went to Manteo "for the purpose of questioning them about the particular break-in in [Kill Devil Hills]." Griggs testified that he advised defendant of his rights, and, after defendant signed his waiver of rights form, defendant made a verbal statement allegedly implicating himself in each of the break-ins. Defendant thereafter made a written statement which according to the State's evidence contained only part of what defendant stated orally.

Defendant testified on voir dire that he was stopped by a Tyrrell County deputy sheriff who told him and his companion to get out of the car, and to go under a shelter approximately 25 feet from the car. He testified they were held there a little over an hour while the deputy called "every now and then . . . to see what he had stopped [defendant] for. . . ." Defendant testified that the deputy, in response to an inquiry concerning why defendant had been stopped, replied that he didn't know, but that "he had had a report on the radio to stop a blue Pacer." After approximately an hour defendant and his companion walked over to the Town of Columbia police station under the deputy's guard.

Defendant testified that he never gave any consent to have his car searched because he was never asked. He testified that he was questioned by Officer Mauldin between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. on 30 November 1978 and that he was approximately ...

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