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State v. Burris

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

March 21, 2017


          Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 August 2016.

         Appeal by defendant from judgment entered on or about 7 October 2015 by Judge Martin B. McGee in Superior Court, Cabarrus County. Cabarrus County, No. 12 CRS 051930

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Kathryne E. Hathcock, for the State.

          Andrew Yu for defendant-appellant.

          STROUD, Judge.

         Defendant Devrie Leran Burris ("defendant") appeals from the trial court's judgment finding him guilty of impaired driving. On appeal, defendant raises several issues, including that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress self-incriminating statements made after his driver's license was retained and without Miranda warnings. Because we find that defendant was not free to leave at the time his license was retained, we agree and remand to the trial court for a new trial.


         On 13 April 2012, Christopher Hill of the Kannapolis Police Department ("Detective Hill") responded to a suspicious person call at a Fairfield Inn in Cabarrus County. After pulling in to the hotel parking lot, Detective Hill observed a red Ford Explorer "parked in front of the hotel kind of in the unloading area under the overhang." A woman was standing outside of the Explorer and defendant was sitting in the driver's seat. Detective Hill spoke to the woman standing outside of the car and to defendant through the passenger side window, which was rolled down. The vehicle's engine was not running.

         Detective Hill asked "what they were doing there" and "for their identifications." Defendant and the woman responded that they were trying to get a room, and defendant got out of the driver's seat to walk around the car to Detective Hill to hand him his identification. Detective Hill noticed a "strong odor of alcohol beverage" from defendant when he handed over his driver's license. He told defendant and the woman to "hang tight there in the parking lot area" while he went inside to talk to the hotel clerk. He learned that the clerk had called because of a concern that the actions of defendant and the woman were similar to "a robbery that happened in a neighboring hotel a night or two before." [1]

         Based on his conversation with the hotel clerk, Detective Hill went back outside to ask defendant if he was the one driving the vehicle, to which he responded "yes." He then began asking defendant questions about where he was traveling and the route he had taken to the hotel. At some point, Detective Hill checked the registration on the vehicle and determined that it was registered in defendant's name. Detective Hill asked defendant whether he had anything to drink that night, and defendant responded that he had "a couple drinks." Defendant told Detective Hill that he had not had anything to drink since arriving at the hotel. Detective Hill did not observe any open or unopened containers in or around the red Ford Explorer.

         Detective Hill asked defendant "to submit to field sobriety testing, " and performed those tests in the parking lot. Defendant "showed some signs of impairment on them." Detective Hill then asked defendant to submit to a portable breath sample test, and he obliged, resulting in a reading of .10. At that point, Detective Hill placed defendant under arrest for driving while impaired and transported him to the Kannapolis Police Department.

         After arriving at the police station, Detective Hill attempted to perform a breath test on defendant, but he refused. Since defendant refused a breath test, Detective Hill took defendant to the hospital to request a blood draw for analysis. Detective Hill did not seek a warrant for the blood draw. After arriving at the hospital, Detective Hill informed defendant of his implied consent rights. Defendant exercised his right to contact a witness, but 30 minutes later, the witness still had not arrived. After defendant refused to submit to a blood draw, Detective Hill directed a nurse to draw blood samples from defendant's arm. After the blood draw, Detective Hill transported defendant to the magistrate's office, where he was processed and placed in jail.

         Defendant was charged with impaired driving. He was convicted and sentenced in district court on 15 April 2014. Defendant appealed to the superior court. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss on 23 July 2015, and in the motion asked for suppression of

any statements made by Defendant as the officer engaged in a custodial interrogation of the Defendant without advising the Defendant of his right to refrain from answering any questions or advising the Defendant of his constitutional right to counsel during questioning or any other federal, state or statutory rights of an accused in police custody regarding the effect of any statement on future proceedings.

         On 17 August 2015, a hearing was held on defendant's motion and the trial court orally denied the motion to suppress statements in open court.

         Following the 17 August 2015 hearing, the trial court entered an order and a subsequent amended order denying defendant's motion. In the amended order, the court concluded in relevant part:

2. Miranda warnings and a waiver of those rights apply only before officers begin a custodial interrogation Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436. Without facts showing both "custody" and "interrogation, " the Miranda rule is inapplicable.
3. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a person is in custody under the Miranda rule when officer [sic] have formally arrested the person or have restrained a person's movement to a degree associated with a formal arrest. Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420.
4. The North Carolina Supreme Court has made clear that it follows the U.S. Supreme Court on the meaning of custody. State v. Buchanan, 353 [ N.C. ] 332.
5. In the present case, the Defendant falls short of the test for custody, therefore the statements made before arrest should not be suppressed.
6. Under the totality of the above-referenced circumstances, the Defendant's Motion to Suppress should be denied.

         An additional order denying defendant's motion to suppress was entered regarding the warrantless blood draw, finding "exigent circumstances to support a warrantless blood draw." A jury trial was held from 5 October to 7 October 2015, with the jury finding defendant ...

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