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State v. Hall

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

November 19, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
ALLISON MACKIE HALL, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 September 2019.

          Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 9 July 2018 by Judge Anna M. Wagoner in Rowan County Superior Court No. 17CRS52497.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Dylan C. Sugar, for the State.

          Gilda C. Rodriguez for defendant-appellant.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         Allison Mackie Hall ("Defendant") appeals the trial court's denial of her motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search of her purse. Following denial of her motion, Defendant pleaded guilty to possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia pursuant to a plea arrangement with the State that preserved her ability to appeal.

         On appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred when it denied her motion to suppress evidence because the court made insufficient findings of fact related to her consent to search her vehicle and her purse. We disagree.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On April 8, 2017, at approximately 7:50 p.m., Defendant was asleep in her car at Dan Nicholas Park in Rowan County, North Carolina. The park was scheduled to close at 8:00 p.m. that evening.

         Lieutenant William Andrew Downs ("Lieutenant Downs"), with the Rowan County Sheriff's Office, was performing a routine sweep of the park prior to closing when he discovered Defendant's vehicle in the parking area. Lieutenant Downs called in the vehicle's registration number and then approached the driver's side window to see if anyone was inside the vehicle. He observed Defendant slumped over in the driver's seat with her upper body leaning into the passenger's seat.

         Lieutenant Downs was concerned that there was a medical emergency based on Defendant's positioning, and he knocked on the window of the vehicle. After Lieutenant Downs knocked several times, Defendant sat up, looked at him, and opened the driver's side door. Defendant informed Lieutenant Downs that she was camping in the park with her son and his Boy Scout troop, and that she decided to take a nap in her vehicle. According to Lieutenant Downs, Defendant's speech was slurred, her eyes were bloodshot, and she was unsteady on her feet when she exited the vehicle.

         While interacting with Defendant, Lieutenant Downs noticed track marks on Defendant's arms consistent with heroin use. Lieutenant Downs asked Defendant if she had any narcotics in her vehicle or purse, and Defendant responded that she did not. Lieutenant Downs then asked for Defendant's driver's license and checked for outstanding warrants. While still in possession of Defendant's license, Lieutenant Downs asked for consent to search her vehicle and purse. Defendant's purse was sitting in the front seat of the vehicle.

         The State and Defendant presented conflicting evidence concerning the events that followed. According to Lieutenant Downs, he asked Defendant for consent to search her vehicle and purse one time, and Defendant responded, "Sure." In contrast, Defendant testified that Lieutenant Downs asked for permission to search her vehicle three times, and that each time Defendant responded, "I would really rather you not." According to Defendant, she only consented to the search after Lieutenant Downs threatened to take her away in handcuffs.

         During the search, Lieutenant Downs found multiple syringes in the top section of Defendant's purse, and, again, asked her if she was carrying anything illegal. Defendant responded, "Am I going to jail?" According to Lieutenant Downs, he promised Defendant that he would not take her to jail that night if she cooperated. Defendant then informed Lieutenant Downs that she had a syringe containing heroin in the side compartment of her purse. Lieutenant Downs found the syringe in Defendant's purse, along with a burnt spoon and approximately two grams of heroin. ...


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