An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA03-763


Filed: 20 April 2004.


         v.                        Gaston County
                                Nos. 01 CRS 3441,
JIMMY LEE BROOKS                        00 CRS 50987,
                                    00 CRS 50989

    Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 22 August 2001 by Judge Marcus Johnson in Superior Court, Gaston County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 March 2004.

    Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General Robert R. Gelblum, for the State.

    Reita P. Pendry for defendant-appellant.

    WYNN, Judge.

    Defendant, Jimmy Lee Brooks, argues the trial court erroneously denied his motion to suppress evidence obtained during an unconstitutional traffic stop. We affirm Defendant's judgment and conviction.
    Before trial, Defendant moved to suppress evidence seized as a result of an allegedly invalid traffic stop. The evidence at the suppression hearing tended to show that Captain John Burgin of the Cherryville Police Department received information that the Gastonia City Police Department had arrested Defendant on 16January 2000 for possession of cocaine and that Lincoln County vice agents had an open case on Defendant for selling drugs. Captain Burgin also received information from an informant that the informant had purchased cocaine from Defendant in the past. The informant had previously given Captain Burgin information that led to valid arrests.
    At Captain Burgin's direction, the informant called Defendant on his cell phone on 19 January 2000 and ordered two and one half ounces of cocaine from Defendant. Captain Burgin listened to the informant make the phone call. Afterwards, the informant told Captain Burgin that Defendant would drive a green Cadillac along Route 150 to deliver cocaine to the informant's residence in Cherryville and that Defendant would arrive shortly.
    Captain Burgin subsequently drove to the vicinity of Defendant's residence in Lincolnton. Captain Burgin saw Defendant get into a green Cadillac. He saw several people come up to the driver's side window, stay for a few seconds and leave. Based on his experience and training, Captain Burgin thought these actions to be consistent with drug activity. Defendant drove his Cadillac west on Highway 150 and Captain Burgin followed. Captain Burgin notified Sergeant Shannon Rogers and K-9 Officer Burleson that an informant told him that Defendant would be traveling to Cherryville and would be carrying cocaine. Captain Burgin told Sergeant Rogers to stop Defendant when they entered the city limits.
    Once Defendant and Captain Burgin reached the city limits, Sergeant Rogers pulled in behind Defendant's Cadillac. SergeantRogers observed Defendant rapidly move from the travel lane to the left turn lane, back to the travel lane, then returned to the left turn lane and turned into a private driveway. Sergeant Rogers activated his blue lights, stopped Defendant and requested Defendant's driver's license. Defendant provided Sergeant Rogers with an expired license, stating that his current license had been stolen.
    To confirm that Defendant's license was valid, Sergeant Rogers escorted Defendant to his patrol vehicle and seated him in the front passenger seat. Sergeant Rogers checked the status of Defendant's driver's license using the patrol vehicle radio. Captain Burgin asked Defendant for consent to search his Cadillac and Defendant consented. The K-9 search of the Cadillac yielded no contraband and Defendant's license came back valid. When Sergeant Rogers opened the passenger side door to let Defendant out of the patrol vehicle, he and Captain Burgin observed six or seven bags of crack cocaine between the seat and the plastic door jamb. Defendant was in the patrol vehicle for approximately ten to fifteen minutes.
    After the hearing, the trial court found that Defendant was reasonably believed to be associated with drugs; that the informant deserved reliability in the mind of Captain Burgin; Captain Burgin had a basis for believing the informant's tip; that Captain Burgin had a reasonable suspicion that Defendant was selling drugs from his automobile. Based on these findings, the trial court concluded there was probable cause to believe Defendant carried cocaine inhis vehicle and that there was probable cause to stop the vehicle. The trial court denied the motion to suppress.
    At trial, the State presented substantially the same evidence as presented during the suppression hearing. Defendant was subsequently convicted of trafficking in cocaine by possession, possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver cocaine, and trafficking in controlled substances. The trial court sentenced Defendant to thirty-five to forty-two months imprisonment for the two trafficking in cocaine convictions and suspended an eight to ten month sentence for the possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine. Defendant appeals.
    Defendant assigns error to the denial of his motion to suppress, arguing that his stop and detention violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore, any evidence recovered as a result must be suppressed. We disagree, and affirm the trial court.s denial of Defendant.s motion.
    Our review of a ruling on a motion to suppress is limited to whether the trial court.s findings are supported by competent evidence and whether those findings support its ultimate conclusions. State v. Pulliam, 139 N.C. App. 437, 439-40, 533 S.E.2d 280, 282 (2000). .While the trial court.s factual findings are binding if sustained by the evidence, the court.s conclusions based thereon are reviewable de novo on appeal.. State v. Parker, 137 N.C. App. 590, 594, 530 S.E.2d 297, 300 (2000).
    Defendant first argues the police were not justified ininitiating an investigatory stop of Defendant. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Section 20 of Article I of the North Carolina Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. State v. Garner, 331 N.C. 491, 506-07, 417 S.E.2d 502, 510 (1992), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1129, 133 L. Ed. 2d 872 (1996). “It applies to seizures of the person, including brief investigatory detentions such as those involved in the stopping of a vehicle.” State v. Watkins, 337 N.C. 437, 441, 446 S.E.2d 67, 69-70 (1994). An investigatory stop must be justified by “a reasonable suspicion, based on objective facts, that the individual is involved in criminal activity.” Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 51, 61 L. Ed. 2d 357, 362 (1979). “A court must consider 'the totality of the circumstances--the whole picture' in determining whether a reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop exists.” Watkins, 337 N.C. 437, 441, 446 S.E.2d 67, 70.
     An informant's tip may provide the reasonable suspicion necessary for a Terry stop. See Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 328, 110 L. Ed. 2d 301, 307 (1990) (United States Supreme Court concluded that the informant's tip carried sufficient “indicia of reliability” to justify an investigatory stop even if insufficient to support an arrest or search warrant). “Although reasonable suspicion is less stringent than probable cause, it nevertheless requires that statements from tipsters carry some 'indicia of reliability[.].” State v. Watkins, 120 N.C. App. 804, 809, 463 S.E.2d 802, 805 (1995). There must also exist sufficient policecorroboration of the tip before the stop is made. If reasonable suspicion exists before the stop is made, there is no violation of the Fourth Amendment. State v. Hughes, 353 N.C. 200, 207, 539 S.E.2d 625, 630 (2000).
    Here, the facts established that the tip provided by the informant was sufficiently reliable to create reasonable suspicion to justify the stop. First, Captain Burgin had relied on the informant for valid arrests in the past; the informant admitted buying cocaine from Defendant and the informant provided specific details concerning Defendant's future behavior. Furthermore, the information that Defendant was involved with drugs was corroborated by Defendant's arrest for possession of cocaine and Lincoln County vice agents' open case on Defendant. Finally, Captain Burgin observed several people come up to Defendant's vehicle, which he believed to be consistent with drug activity. Based on the information and corroboration, the police had reasonable grounds to believe the tip was accurate and reliable, and that the investigatory stop of the vehicle was justified.
    In his remaining argument, Defendant contends that even if Sergeant Rogers had legal justification to stop Defendant, the detention exceeded the permissible scope allowed for such a stop. Defendant argues that the duration of the stop to permit the search exceeded the time necessary to verify that Defendant had a valid driver's license.
    Detentions protected by the Fourth Amendment include “brief investigatory detentions such as those involved in the stopping ofa vehicle.” State v. Watkins, 337 N.C. 437, 441, 446 S.E.2d 67, 70 (1994). “.The scope of the detention must be carefully tailored to its underlying justification..” State v. Morocco, 99 N.C. App. 421, 427-28, 393 S.E.2d 545, 549 (1990) (quoting Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229, 238 (1983)). “[A]n investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. Similarly, the investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available to verify or dispel the officer's suspicion in a short period of time.” Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229, 238 (1983)(citations omitted).
    The evidence showed that Defendant was not stopped and detained by police for an unreasonably long period of time. Once stopped, Defendant was detained long enough for Officer Rogers to check Defendant's license and the consensual K-9 search of Defendant's Cadillac. By Defendant's consent to search his vehicle, Defendant extended the duration of the stop. Once Officer Rogers completed the required checks and the K-9 search of the vehicle was terminated, Defendant was free to leave. Defendant was inside the patrol vehicle approximately ten to fifteen minutes. Therefore, we conclude Defendant's detention did not exceed the scope of the investigatory scope.
    Taken as a whole, the evidence supports the trial court's findings of fact, and we hold these findings support the conclusion that Defendant's stop and detention were within the permissible bounds of the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, the trial courtproperly denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence recovered as a result thereof.
    Judges HUNTER and McCULLOUGH concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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