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Combs v. Robertson

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

February 3, 2015

MYRA LYNNE COMBS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL D. ROBERTSON, COMMISSIONER OF NORTH CAROLINA DIVISION OF MOTOR VEHICLES, Defendant

Heard in the Court of Appeals November 5, 2014.

As Corrected February 5, 2015.

Editorial Note:

This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]

Surry County. No. 13 CVS 1256.

Randolph & Fischer, by J. Clark Fischer, for petitioner-appellee.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General Christopher W. Brooks, for respondent-appellant.

DIETZ, Judge. Judges BRYANT and DILLON concur.

Page 926

Appeal by respondent from order entered 4 April 2014 by Judge L. Todd Burke in Surry County Superior Court.

OPINION

DIETZ, Judge.

This case serves as a reminder that, unless our Supreme Court holds otherwise, the Fourth Amendment's exclusionary rule does not apply in civil proceedings such as driver's license revocation hearings, even if those proceedings could be viewed as quasi-criminal in nature.

In 2013, police violated Petitioner Myra Lynne Combs's Fourth Amendment rights by stopping her car without reasonable suspicion. Combs smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, and failed a field sobriety test. But she refused to submit to a breath test both at the stop and later at the police station. The State then charged her with driving while impaired.

Because the traffic stop was unconstitutional, all evidence derived from the stop was suppressed in Combs's criminal case, resulting in dismissal of the charges. But the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) pressed ahead, revoking Combs's driver's license for her refusal to submit to a breath test. Combs challenged that revocation, arguing that the officer did not have " reasonable grounds" to believe she was impaired (the standard for license revocation under the implied consent laws). The gist of Combs's argument is that, because the ...


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