in the Court of Appeals 2 April 2018.
by Defendant from order entered 29 July 2016 by Judge William
H. Coward and from judgments entered 4 November 2016 by Judge
Robert G. Horne in Superior Court, Macon County. Nos. 15 CRS
51404, 51405 and 16 CRS 00036.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Adren L. Harris, for the State.
Loranger for Defendant.
Junior Cox ("Defendant") appeals from an order
denying his motion to suppress evidence recovered during a
traffic stop from a vehicle in which Defendant was a
passenger. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
Sergeant Clay Bryson ("Sergeant Bryson") and Deputy
Sheriff Josh Stewart ("Deputy Stewart") of the
Macon County Sheriff's Department ("MCSD") were
patrolling U.S. Route 441 in separate patrol cars in Macon
County, North Carolina, on 10 December 2015. Sergeant Bryson
had been employed by the MCSD for over sixteen years, had
extensive training in the area of drug interdiction, and had
investigated more than one hundred drug cases for the MCSD.
According to the trial court's unchallenged findings,
U.S. Route 441 is a major thoroughfare for traffic from
Atlanta, and Atlanta is "a major source of controlled
substances for western North Carolina." Sergeant Bryson
testified there was "a lot of drug activity on [U.S.
Route] 441." While on patrol on 10 December 2015,
Sergeant Bryson had with him a police dog trained to detect
Bryson was parked in his patrol car on the east side of U.S.
Route 441, perpendicular to the road, when he noticed a gold
Pontiac ("the vehicle") traveling northbound around
3:00 p.m. Sergeant Bryson testified that, as the vehicle
approached, he "noticed the female driver . . . was
slumped back and over toward the center console [and] the
male passenger . . . [who was wearing] . . . a cowboy type of
hat[, ] . . . tilted his head slightly, almost to block his
face." Sergeant Bryson testified this behavior by the
driver, later identified as Melanie Pursley
("Pursley"), and the passenger, later identified as
Defendant, suggested "nervousness" and
"aroused [Sergeant Bryson's] suspicion somewhat
[based on] some of the [drug interdiction] training [he had]
been through." Sergeant Bryson pulled his patrol car
onto the road and into the far left lane, behind the vehicle.
When Pursley did not voluntarily switch lanes, Sergeant
Bryson moved over into the right-hand lane and pulled up
alongside the vehicle. Sergeant Bryson testified that, as he
pulled up beside the vehicle, Pursley "swerved over into
[Sergeant Bryson's] lane with the two right[-]side tires
of [Pursley's] vehicle crossing the dotted white line in
the center of the roadway into [Sergeant Bryson's]
lane." This caused Sergeant Bryson to pull his patrol
car to the right "over the fog line in order to keep
from having a  collision with the vehicle and [to] abruptly
hit [his] brakes." After hitting his brakes, Sergeant
Bryson pulled back into the passing lane, behind the vehicle.
Using a radar device, Sergeant Bryson clocked the
vehicle's speed at sixty-two miles per hour in a
fifty-five mile per hour speed limit zone. Sergeant Bryson
initiated a traffic stop for Pursley's unsafe movement
and the speeding violation, and Pursley pulled off the road
into a vacant parking lot.
Bryson approached the driver's side of the vehicle and
asked Pursley for her driver's license and vehicle
registration. Pursley produced a registration card and began
"fumbling all through the vehicle . . . searching for a
driver's license." Sergeant Bryson testified that,
as Pursley was searching for her license, he "was
watching her behavior" and "note[d] a lot of 
nervousness[.]" Pursley's "hands were
shaking" when she handed Sergeant Bryson her
registration card, and he could "see her
heartbeat[.]" Pursley eventually stopped searching for
her driver's license and told Sergeant Bryson she
believed she had left it at a gas station in Georgia.
Pursley had no driver's license or other form of personal
identification, Sergeant Bryson asked her to exit the
vehicle. While standing behind the vehicle, Sergeant Bryson
"engaged [Pursley] in general conversation[, ] . . .
ask[ing] . . . where [she was] coming from, [and] where [she
was] going[.]" Pursley gave Defendant's name and
indicated Defendant was her boyfriend. She stated they were
traveling from Georgia, "headed to Kentucky . . . [for
Pursley] to meet [Defendant's] parents for the first
time." Pursley indicated that was "the reason for
her nervousness[.]" Sergeant Bryson wrote Pursley's
name and date of birth on the back of her registration card.
Bryson asked Pursley "if [Defendant] had an ID on him
because [Pursley did] not . . . and asked if [he] could . . .
speak to [Defendant]." According to Sergeant Bryson,
Pursley responded, "of course." Sergeant Bryson
approached the passenger side of the vehicle and tapped on
the window "to get [Defendant] to roll it down."
Sergeant Bryson testified:
I asked [Defendant] just a couple of general questions after
asking for his ID. He [told] me [he and Pursley were] headed
to his camper on Big Cove in Cherokee[.] [I] asked him if he
was going to do any gambling over there, just ask[ed] him
some general questions. He said they were going over there to
work on his camper for the week. . . . As I first walked up
to the vehicle - I've been working dope for an extended
period of time now. When I walked up to the vehicle I noticed
 [Defendant] had a sore, [an] open sore on the side of his
face . . . [that] looked to me [like] that of a
Bryson indicated one of his purposes in speaking with
Defendant was to see if Defendant could "vouch" for
Pursley. According to Sergeant Bryson, when asked to verify
Pursley's name, Defendant replied: "I guess
that's her name." Sergeant Bryson testified that
when, at the end of their initial conversation, he again
asked Defendant for Pursley's name, Defendant stated
"he [did not] remember." Sergeant Bryson testified
he "didn't see a great deal of nervousness with
Bryson returned to his patrol car to enter Pursley's name
and date of birth into his mobile data terminal. Sergeant
Bryson testified it took longer to run a data search using a
name and date of birth rather than a driver's license
number. Sergeant Bryson also testified he had to search
"in the correct [S]tate that [Pursley] was out of,
Georgia[, ]" and that "[a] lot of times Georgia is
slow to respond and . . . I have no control over that."
The search revealed Pursley's driver's license
expired the previous day. Sergeant Bryson prepared a written
warning citation. He testified that an out-of-state citation
takes longer to prepare because the information must be
entered manually rather than by automatically accessing a
database of the North Carolina DMV.
preparing Pursley's warning citation, Sergeant Bryson
asked Deputy Stewart to run Defendant's driver's
license "to see if [Defendant's license] was valid
[such that Defendant would] be able to drive [Pursley's
vehicle] off from that location." Sergeant Bryson issued
the printed citation to Pursley and returned Defendant's
license. Sergeant Bryson testified that, "[i]n the
process of getting the [license] back [to Defendant][, ] I
asked him if there was anything illegal in the vehicle,
anything I needed to know of[.]" Defendant responded:
"Not that I'm aware of." Sergeant Bryson
testified this was a "red flag[, ]" based on his
drug interdiction training, because it was "a yes or no
question." Pursley continued to engage Sergeant Bryson
in unsolicited conversation about her expired license. As
they continued speaking, Sergeant Bryson asked Pursley
whether she was "responsible for everything in the
vehicle." Pursley "hesitated and [said], my
stuff." Pursley stated Defendant "ha[d] his own
stuff." Sergeant Bryson testified this response from
Pursley was another "red flag, " because "[a]
typical response in a situation like that [would be][, ] I
know what's in my vehicle. . . . [M]ost people will give
you a straight up yes or no answer." Sergeant Bryson
asked Pursley "if [the drug-sniffing] dog was going to .
. . alert on her vehicle, and [Pursley] said, 'I
don't reckon.'" This equivocal response from
Pursley was "another red flag."
Bryson told Pursley he would ask Defendant to exit the
vehicle and he would then conduct a dog sniff around the
exterior perimeter of the vehicle. Sergeant Bryson testified
Pursley's "level of nervousness was elevated"
and Pursley continued "engaging [him] in conversation at
that point." Pursley indicated Defendant might be in
possession of some "personal use" marijuana and
that there might be a hunting knife in the vehicle. Sergeant
Bryson's dog "[s]howed  indicators that he smelled
illegal controlled substances there inside [Pursley's]
vehicle." Sergeant Bryson returned the dog to his patrol
vehicle and called for assistance to begin searching the
vehicle. Inside the vehicle, officers found "[a] large
amount of illegal contraband including methamphetamine, some
marijuana, [and] some paraphernalia, including baggies,
scales, . . . [and] pipes."
was arrested and subsequently indicted on charges of
trafficking in methamphetamine by possession, possession of
marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, trafficking in
methamphetamine by transportation, and possession of
methamphetamine with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver.
Defendant filed a motion on 23 March 2016 seeking "to
suppress the use as evidence of any and all items seized from
the vehicle of the co-defendant  Pursley." Defendant
contended Sergeant Bryson unlawfully extended the 10 December
2015 traffic stop without reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity by either Pursley or Defendant. The trial court held
a hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress on 26 July
2016 and denied the motion by order entered 29 July 2016. A
jury convicted Defendant on all ...