in the Court of Appeals 23 January 2018.
by State of North Carolina from an order entered 29 March
2017 by Judge Joshua W. Willey, Jr. in Duplin County, No. 16
CRS 50583-84 Superior Court.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Joseph L. Hyde, for the State.
Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate
Defender Katy Dickinson-Shultz, for defendant-appellee.
October 3, 2016, the Duplin County Grand Jury indicted Toni
Turnage ("Defendant") for fleeing to elude arrest,
resisting a public officer, and two counts of child abuse.
Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress in Duplin County
Superior Court alleging law enforcement did not have
reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant's vehicle, and the
seizure of Defendant violated the Fourth Amendment to the
United States Constitution and Article I, Section 20 of the
North Carolina Constitution. The trial court granted
Defendant's motion. We reverse.
and Procedural Background
Motion to Suppress was heard in Duplin County Superior Court
on March 21, 2017. The State's only witness at the
suppression hearing was Detective Shane Miller of the Duplin
County Sheriff's Department. Defendant did not put on any
evidence tended to show that detectives with the Duplin
County Sheriff's Department received several complaints
regarding apparent drug activity at 155 John David Grady Road
in Duplin County. On March 23, 2016, detectives conducted
surveillance of the area. Lieutenant Chuck Weaver and
Detective Allen Williams were in an unmarked Ford pickup
truck with Detective Miller, while Detectives Michael
Tyndall, Matthew Strickland, and Jay Lanier were in an
unmarked Chevrolet pickup truck. The detectives were in plain
Detective Miller was arriving to the area, Detective
Tyndall's unit reported a burgundy van leaving 155 John
David Grady Road. Detective Miller observed the burgundy van
traveling west on John David Grady Road, approaching the
intersection of Woodland Church Road. Detective Miller
noticed the van was driven by a female and that there was a
male passenger. Detective Miller followed the burgundy van
for approximately one-half mile after the female driver
turned onto Woodland Church Road.
and without warning, the burgundy van stopped in the middle
of Woodland Church Road. Detective Miller waited
approximately fifteen seconds, and activated the blue lights
on the patrol unit because he "didn't want anybody
coming down the road . . . [to] hit the vehicle, [and] cause
a[n] accident." Detective Miller testified:
Well, the van was obviously stopped in the roadway so we
didn't know what was going on. We didn't know if the
van had broken down or if there was a problem in the van or
what was going on in the van. So at that point in time I
activated my blue lights because there was a van in the
Miller further elaborated that "[i]f a vehicle is
stopped in the roadway, [blocking] traffic, impeding traffic,
broke down, whatever, I want to know what's going on with
that vehicle. So I activate my emergency equipment to let
people know, hey, something going on here, be careful."
Ford pickup truck driven by Detective Miller was located
approximately fifteen feet from the burgundy van in the
middle of the roadway. As Detective Miller attempted to
approach the driver's side of the vehicle, he noticed a
male subject exit the passenger side of the burgundy van.
Detective Miller recognized the male subject to be Donnie
Barton, an individual known to Detective Miller through prior
law enforcement encounters. Detective Miller testified:
I went to get out of the [patrol vehicle] and all of a sudden
a male subject from the passenger side of the van gets out of
the van, hands in pocket, and starts walking toward the
patrol vehicle. At that point in time I told Detective
Williams who was in the passenger side of my patrol vehicle
to get out ...