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State v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

November 19, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
BRANDISS TAYLOR

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 5 June 2019.

          Appeal by State from Order entered 12 June 2018 by Judge Phyllis M. Gorham in Wayne County Superior Court No. 16 CRS 55186.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Joseph L. Hyde, for the State.

          Strickland Agner Pittman, by Dustin B. Pittman, for defendant-appellee.

          HAMPSON, JUDGE

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The State appeals from the trial court's Order granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Based on Loss and Destruction of Exculpatory Evidence (Motion to Dismiss). The Record tends to show the following:

         On 27 November 2016, Brandiss Taylor (Defendant) was arrested and given a citation for Impaired Driving and Failure to Maintain Lane Control. On 4 December 2017, a Wayne County Grand Jury returned an Indictment charging Defendant with Habitual Impaired Driving, Driving While License Revoked, and Driving Left of Center. On 25 April 2018, Defendant filed her Motion to Dismiss, which came on for a hearing in Wayne County Superior Court on 11 June 2018. At the beginning of this hearing, both the State and Defendant stipulated to the following Factual Allegations from Defendant's Motion to Dismiss:

1. On 27 November 2016 at approximately 1:20 A.M., Trooper Adam J. Hostinsky of the North Carolina Highway Patrol [(Trooper Hostinsky)] observed a truck merge onto U.S. 117 South from a parking area;
2. The truck made a number of maneuvers that alerted [Trooper Hostinsky] to its presence and he began to follow. [Trooper Hostinsky] noted varying speeds, failure to maintain lane and the truck drive left of the center line twice with sharp corrections back. In [Trooper Hostinsky's] words "it appeared the driver may be lost or unsure of where they are going;"
3. Based on those observed traffic violations, [Trooper Hostinsky] conducted a traffic stop on the truck and it pulled to the side of the road and the "truck was put into park while still travelling about 15 MPH;"
4. When [Trooper Hostinsky] approached the truck, he found two people sitting on the passenger side of the truck, [Defendant] and another individual named Roy Lee;
5. [Trooper Hostinsky] indicates in his written notes that he identified [Defendant] as the driver and that he "saw the driver make their way to the passenger side of the vehicle" after the traffic stop was conducted;
6. [Defendant] has from the very beginning denied driving the truck that night and has maintained that throughout the life of this case;
7. As early as 28 November 2016, Trooper Hostinsky notes that [Defendant] was being considered for the felony charge of Habitual Impaired Driving;
8. On 16 December 2016, less than 30 days after the initial DWI charge was filed, agents of the Office of the District Attorney began requesting certified copies of records of prior convictions of [Defendant], presumably to prepare an indictment for Felony Habitual Impaired Driving; . . . .
9. On 29 December 2016, thirty-two (32) days after the traffic stop was conducted, Trooper Hostinsky submitted his investigative file to the Office of the District Attorney and certified his compliance with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-501(6) in gathering "all materials and information acquired in the course of all felony investigations;" . . . .
10. On 28 July 2017, [defense counsel] filed a "Request for Voluntary Discovery (Alternative Motion to Compel Discovery) in a Driving While Impaired Case; . . . .
11. Even though the investigative file was submitted some seven months before the request, discovery was not released to [defense counsel] until 6 December 2017 as [defense counsel] has been informed multiple times by Assistant District Attorneys and their staff that "discovery does not exist in district court" especially as it relates to Driving While Impaired offenses;
12. In the request for discovery, Defendant makes specific request for any and all video including Dash Camera and Body Camera footage;
13. The case was submitted to the Grand Jury in December 2017 and a true bill of indictment was returned for Felony Habitual Impaired Driving;
14. [Defense counsel] made additional request of the State for the Dash Camera footage ...

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