in the Court of Appeals 8 February 2017.
by defendant from judgment entered 7 April 2016 by Judge
Linwood O. Foust in Mecklenburg County, No. 15 CRS 216915
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Daniel S. Hirschman, for the State.
Tarlton Polk, PLLC, by Raymond C. Tarlton, for
Montrez Walker ("defendant") appeals the denial of
his motion to suppress evidence following entry of judgment
on his guilty plea to felony possession of a schedule II
controlled substance. For the following reasons, we affirm
the decision of the trial court.
was arrested for possession with intent to sell or deliver
cocaine on 13 May 2015. On 8 September 2015, a Mecklenburg
County Grand Jury indicted defendant for felonious possession
of a schedule II controlled substance with the intent to
sell. On 16 November 2016, defendant filed a motion to
suppress evidence. Specifically, defendant asserted that
police seized the cocaine at issue during an unlawful search
and seizure of his person.
motion came on for hearing before the Honorable Linwood O.
Foust in Mecklenburg County Superior Court on 7 April 2016.
Upon hearing the testimony of the arresting officers and
reviewing body camera video of the encounter, the trial court
denied defendant's motion to suppress evidence of the
cocaine. Following this denial, defendant entered a guilty
plea to the lesser included offense of possession of a
schedule II controlled substance. The arrangement allowed
defendant to plead guilty to possession of cocaine, but
preserved defendant's right to appeal the conviction as
he believed the motion to suppress was wrongfully denied.
Upon hearing the factual basis of the plea, the trial court
accepted defendant's guilty plea and entered judgment on
7 April 2016. Due to defendant's prior record, defendant
was sentenced to 5 to 15 months imprisonment, with the term
suspended on condition that he complete 18 months of
supervised probation. Defendant filed a notice of appeal the
appeal, defendant asserts his motion to suppress the cocaine
was wrongfully denied by the trial court. Defendant argues
the search and seizure of his person was unlawful because the
officers did not have reasonable suspicion of a crime and
that he was not consenting to a search.
review of a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress
is "strictly limited to determining whether the trial
judge's underlying findings of fact are supported by
competent evidence, in which event they are conclusively
binding on appeal, and whether those factual findings in turn
support the judge's ultimate conclusions of law."
State v. Cooke, 306 N.C. 132, 134, 291 S.E.2d 618,
619 (1982). "The trial court's conclusions of law .
. . are fully reviewable on appeal." State v.
Hughes, 353 N.C. 200, 208, 539 S.E.2d 625, 631 (2000).
asserts that when officers approached him in an enclosed bus
stop and asked coercive questions with accusations that he
had been selling drugs, the encounter amounted to a seizure
in violation of the protections afforded under the United
States Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution
because a reasonable person would not have felt that he was
free to leave. Thus, defendant contends that the unlawful
seizure invalidates his consent to the search and, with
neither reasonable suspicion nor consent, the cocaine found
on his person should have been suppressed.
State agrees that the officers performing the stop did not
have evidence to support a seizure based on reasonable
suspicion. Rather, the State contends the interaction was a
voluntary police-citizen interaction, which does not require
reasonable suspicion, and that defendant legally consented to
the search. Thus, the issues at hand are whether ...