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State v. Jones

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

March 5, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
NACARRIAS T. JONES, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 23 August 2018.

          Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 23 October 2017 by Judge Imelda J. Pate in Sampson County Nos. 15CRS051319-20 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Nick Benjamin, for the State.

          Jeffrey William Gillette for defendant-appellant.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         Nacarrias T. Jones ("Defendant") appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. Defendant argues his constitutional rights were violated when officers unnecessarily extended a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion. We disagree and affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On June 10, 2015, Defendant was a passenger in a rental car driven by Jelisa Simmons ("Simmons"). Deputies Ronie Robinson ("Deputy Robinson") and Dustin Irvin ("Deputy Irvin") with the Sampson County Sheriff's Department initiated a traffic stop of Simmons' vehicle because Defendant was not wearing a seatbelt. Deputy Irvin approached the passenger side of the vehicle and observed the passenger seat "leaned back very far" while Defendant was leaning forward with his head near his knees in "a very awkward position." Deputy Irvin also observed that Defendant's hands were around his waist and not visible to Deputy Irvin. Due to the way that Defendant was "bent forward," it appeared to Deputy Irvin that Defendant "was possibly hiding a gun." When Deputy Irvin introduced himself, Defendant glanced up at him, looked around the front area of the vehicle, but remained seated in the same awkward position. Deputy Irvin testified that, based upon his training and experience, Defendant's behavior was not typical.

         When Deputy Irvin advised Defendant that the traffic stop was initiated because Defendant had not been wearing his seat belt, Defendant apologized. Deputy Irvin asked for Defendant's identification, but Defendant was unable to produce any document to verify his identity. However, Defendant stated that he was "not going to lie" about his identity. Deputy Irvin testified that, based upon his training and experience, use of the phrase "I'm not going to lie to you" or other similar phrases were signs of deception. Deputy Irvin asked Defendant to exit the vehicle due to Defendant's unusual behavior and because Defendant could not provide any identification.

         During the suppression hearing, Deputy Irvin testified as follows:

[Deputy Irvin:] I asked [Defendant] if he would step out of the vehicle.
[The State:] And why did you do that?
[Deputy Irvin:] Just based off of his behavior. First of all, I couldn't see his hands. He was leaned forward as if he was hiding something in his lap. And also-[Defendant] didn't have his identification. So for me to complete my action of investigating the seat belt violation, I would need to know who [Defendant] was, and for that, I would need his name, his date of birth, sometimes I would need an address, just depending on how common the name is. And to do that, I would need to run all of his information through our law enforcement database.
[The State:] And is that database something you have in your car?
[Deputy Irvin:] Yes. It is something we can pull up on our terminal inside of our patrol vehicle that's mounted inside the vehicle.
[The State:] And so it's mounted inside the ...

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