State v. Bullock, 051016 NCCA, COA15-731

Docket NºCOA15-731
Opinion JudgeGEER, Judge.
AttorneyAttorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General John A. Payne, for the State. Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defendant Jon H. Hunt, for defendant-appellant.
Judge PanelJudge BRYANT concurs. Judge McCULLOUGH dissents in a separate opinion. McCULLOUGH, Judge, dissent.
Case DateMay 10, 2016
CourtCourt of Appeals of North Carolina




No. COA15-731

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

May 10, 2016

Heard in the Court of Appeals 17 November 2015.

Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 30 July 2014 by Judge Orlando F. Hudson in Durham County Superior Court, No. 12 CRS 61997

Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General John A. Payne, for the State.

Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defendant Jon H. Hunt, for defendant-appellant.

GEER, Judge.

Defendant Michael Antonio Bullock was indicted for trafficking in heroin by possession, trafficking in heroin by transportation, and possession with the intent to sell or deliver a Schedule I controlled substance (heroin). Following the denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained by law enforcement as a result of a search of his vehicle following a traffic stop, defendant pled guilty to the charged offenses. On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because its findings of fact establish that the officer unlawfully extended the stop, making the subsequent search unlawful. In light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Rodriguez v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 191 L.Ed.2d 492, 135 S.Ct. 1609 (2015), we agree and hold, based on the trial court's findings of fact, that the officer unlawfully extended the stop and that defendant's consent to the search did not, therefore, justify the search. Accordingly, we reverse.


The State presented evidence at the motion to suppress hearing that tended to show the following facts. On 27 November 2012, defendant was traveling south on I-85 through Durham. Officer John McDonough of the Durham Police Department was stationary on the side of the interstate when defendant drove past him in the far left lane in a white Chrysler, traveling approximately 70 mph in a 60 mph zone. Officer McDonough observed defendant change lanes to the middle lane "even though there was no car in front of him."

Officer McDonough began following defendant and paced him for about a mile, as defendant continued to maintain a speed of 70 mph, although the speed limit increased to 65 mph. Officer McDonough, while following defendant in a marked patrol car, observed defendant apply the brakes twice and cross over the white shoulder line. He also observed defendant following a truck too closely, coming within approximately one and a half car lengths of it.

Officer McDonough initiated a traffic stop and approached defendant's car from the passenger side. Officer McDonough asked how defendant was doing and for his driver's license and registration. Defendant already had his driver's license out when Officer McDonough approached and his hand was trembling a little. Officer McDonough observed two cell phones in the center console of defendant's vehicle. Officer McDonough understood defendant as saying that he was going to Century Oaks Drive to meet a girl, but that he had missed his exit.

Officer McDonough asked defendant for the rental agreement for the vehicle once defendant indicated that the car was a rental. The rental agreement specified that the car was rented by an "Alicia Bullock, " and "it looked like [defendant] had written his name in at the date part down where the renter signed her name." However, the only authorized user on the rental agreement was Alicia Bullock.

Officer McDonough asked defendant to step back to his patrol car while he ran defendant's driver's license. He shook hands with defendant and told him that he would give him a warning for the traffic violation. He then asked if he could briefly search defendant for weapons before he got into his patrol car. Defendant agreed and lifted his arms up in the air -- Officer McDonough found only cash on him. Defendant later stated that the cash totaled about $372.00. Defendant told Officer McDonough that he was about to go shopping.

While defendant was seated in his patrol car, Officer McDonough ran defendant's North Carolina driver's license through his mobile computer. Officer McDonough's K-9 was located in the back of his police car. Defendant claimed that he had just moved down from Washington, but Officer McDonough learned by running his license that the license was issued back in 2000 and that defendant had been arrested in North Carolina in 2001. Defendant later admitted he had been in the area for a while and claimed he was going to meet a girl he met on Facebook for the first time. However, defendant also mentioned that the same woman would sometimes come up to Henderson to meet him. In addition, when Officer McDonough misidentified the street that defendant had claimed he was traveling to, defendant did not correct him.

Officer McDonough thought defendant looked nervous while he was questioning him in the police car. He noted that defendant was "breathing in and out in his stomach" and was not making much eye contact. Officer McDonough then asked defendant if there were any weapons or drugs in the car and if he could search the vehicle. Defendant gave consent for Officer McDonough to search the car, but not his personal belongings in the car. Defendant clarified that his personal belongings included a bag, some clothes, and some condoms. Officer McDonough called for a backup officer and explained to defendant that he could not conduct a search of a car without a backup officer present. Officer McDonough testified that it took Officer Green around three to five minutes to arrive, although the surveillance tape indicates closer to 10 minutes elapsed.

While they were waiting for Officer Green, defendant asked what they were waiting for, and Officer McDonough explained that he could get in trouble if he searched the car without another officer present. Defendant asked Officer McDonough what would happen if he did not consent to a search of the car, and Officer McDonough stated that he would then deploy his K-9 dog to search the car. At that time, defendant and Officer McDonough spoke some more about the girl defendant was going to see and other matters unrelated to the traffic stop. Defendant then asked again, "What are we waiting for now?" He also expressed concern to Officer McDonough that he was "going to make me miss this."

Once Officer Green arrived, Officer McDonough began searching the front passenger area of the car. Officer McDonough felt that the car was still "kind of outside the shoulder" so he moved it further off to the side of the road. Officer McDonough rolled down the window of his patrol car in case defendant revoked consent to search the car, but other than limiting the search to not including the bags, defendant never revoked his consent to search his car. Officer McDonough got to the trunk and then defendant yelled out, "it's not my bag" and "those are not my hoodies . . . ." Defendant explained that it was his sister's bag and that he couldn't give Officer McDonough permission to search her bag.

Officer McDonough had Officer Green remove the bag and put it on the grass. He then got his K-9 dog out of the car. The K-9 went around the car and did not alert to any drugs being in the car. Officer McDonough then had his K-9 sniff the bag on the side of the road, and the dog "immediately put his nose on the bag and came to a sit" -- the behavior he exhibits when there is an odor of narcotics. According to Officer McDonough, his K-9 dog has never given a false alert. Officer Green opened the bag and found 100 bindles of heroin in it.

Defendant was indicted on 17 December 2012 by a grand jury for trafficking in heroin by possession, trafficking in heroin by transportation, and possession with the intent to sell or deliver a Schedule I controlled substance. Defendant filed a motion to suppress on 2 July 2014, arguing that the trial court should suppress all of the evidence obtained as a result of the search of the vehicle defendant was driving. A suppression hearing was held on 30 July 2014, and on 4 August 2014, the trial court entered an order denying defendant's motion.

In its order, the trial court made the following findings of fact. Officer McDonough initiated a traffic stop after observing defendant "traveling 70 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone in the far left travel lane." In addition, Officer McDonough observed defendant "come within approximately one and a half car lengths of a silver Ford pickup truck." The trial court noted that Officer McDonough requested defendant's license and registration and that "Defendant's hand was trembling when handing his license over to [Officer] McDonough." Further, the trial court found that defendant was the sole occupant and driver of the car and he "was not listed as an authorized driver" on the rental agreement.

The trial court also found "[t]hat [Officer] McDonough observed that defendant had two cellular phones inside the Chrysler[.]" The trial court found that Officer McDonough "asked defendant where he was traveling" and that "Defendant responded he was going to his girlfriend's house on Century Oaks Drive in Durham and he just missed his exit." The court also found that defendant claimed he just moved from Washington, D.C. to Henderson, North Carolina and indicated that he was using the GPS on his cellphone in order to get to his destination.

In addition, the trial court found:

That [Officer] McDonough requested defendant to exit the Chrysler and have a seat in McDonough's patrol vehicle in order to check defendant's driver's license. Before defendant sat in the passenger seat of the patrol vehicle, [Officer] McDonough met defendant at the rear of the Chrysler, shook defendant's hand, told him he was going to give him a warning for the traffic violations, and...

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