Monday, April 14, 2008, 12:36 PM

Divided NC SCT Rejects Suppression Of Evidence

On Friday, in a criminal case implicating the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, the NC Supreme Court split on an issue that had divided the Court of Appeals (COA) below: whether a defendant's 30-second delay at a traffic intersection after the light turned green gave rise to a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the defendant was engaged in criminal activity (namely that he was driving while impaired), thus justifying a traffic stop, which resulted in the police finding drugs. Did the drug evidence have to be suppressed? The COA majority, over Judge Calabria's dissent, said no, holding that the 30-second delay provided a reasonable, articulable suspicion for the stop. On Friday the Supreme Court agreed, in an opinion by Justice Newby. Justices Brady, Timmons-Goodson, and Hudson dissented. Justice Brady accused the majority of having "lowered the threshold of the Fourth Amendment's standard of reasonable, articulable suspicion to an unacceptable level, dangerously exposing the citizens of North Carolina to the potential for unreasonable and arbitrary police practices unchecked by our state's trial and appellate courts." (We originally reported, mistakenly, that Justice Timmons-Goodson joined that dissent. Actually, she didn't. She joined Justice Hudson's separate dissent.)

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