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State v. Turnage

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

May 15, 2018

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
TONI TURNAGE, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 23 January 2018.

          Appeal 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.

          BERGER, Judge.

         On 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.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant's 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.

         The 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 clothes.

         As 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.

         Suddenly, 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 roadway.

         Detective 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."

         The 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 ...

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