An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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. COA04-1420


Filed: 19 July 2005


v .                         Mecklenburg County
                            No. 02 CRS 240940, 240941

    Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 25 May 2004 by Judge David S. Cayer in the Superior Court in Mecklenburg County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 16 June 2005.

    Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General Clinton C. Hicks, for the State.

    Public Defender Isabel Scott Day, by Assistant Public Defender Julie Ramseur Lewis, for defendant-appellant.

    HUDSON, Judge.

    At the 25 May 2004 criminal session of superior court in Mecklenburg County, defendant Twanprece Nashawn Ivey came on for trial on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and carrying a concealed weapon. Defendant moved to suppress evidence of a firearm seized during a traffic stop. Following a hearing at which defendant presented no evidence, the court denied the motion. Defendant pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon and carrying a concealed weapon, and the court sentenced him to fifteen to eighteen months in prison. Defendant appeals. As discussed below, we conclude there was no error.    At the suppression hearing, the State's evidence tended to show that on 11 September 2002, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Christopher Rush noticed a Chevrolet Tahoe driving in a high-crime area. While following the Tahoe in his patrol car, Officer Rush saw the Tahoe come to a complete stop at a T- intersection and then make a right turn without signaling. Officer Rush pulled the Tahoe over and issued a citation to defendant for unsafe movement. During the traffic stop, Officer Rush conducted a warrantless search of the car and found a firearm. Defendant presented no evidence at the suppression hearing, and following the court's denial of his motion, pled guilty to the charges, preserving his right to appeal the suppression issue.
    Defendant argues that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress the firearm seized during the warrantless search of his car on constitutional grounds. We disagree.
    “Our review of a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress is strictly limited to a determination of whether its findings are supported by competent evidence, and in turn, whether the findings support the trial court's ultimate conclusion.” State v. Allison, 148 N.C. App. 702, 704, 559 S.E.2d 828, 829 (2002). “However, a trial court's conclusions of law regarding whether [an] officer had reasonable suspicion to detain a defendant is reviewable de novo.” State v. Kincaid, 147 N.C. App. 94, 97, 555 S.E.2d 294, 297 (2001).
    Defendant argues that Officer Rush did not have probable cause to stop defendant's car, and thus, the subsequent search was unconstitutional. The court denied defendant's motion to suppressbased on its finding that Officer Rush properly stopped defendant for making a turn without signaling pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-154(a). N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-154 provides:
        (a) The driver of any vehicle upon a highway or public vehicular area before starting, stopping or turning from a direct line shall first see that such movement can be made in safety, and if any pedestrian may be affected by such movement shall give a clearly audible signal by sounding the horn, and whenever the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by such movement, shall give a signal as required in this section, plainly visible to the driver of such other vehicle, of the intention to make such movement. The driver of a vehicle shall not back the same unless such movement can be made with safety and without interfering with other traffic.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-154 (2001) (emphasis supplied). “As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.” Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89, 95 (1996).
    Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-154(a),
        [t]he duty to give a statutory signal of an intended left turn does not arise in any event unless the operation of some 'other vehicle may be affected by such movement.' And even then the law does not require infallibility of the motorist. It imposes upon him the duty of giving a statutory signal of his intended left turn only in case the surrounding circumstances afford him reasonable grounds for apprehending that his making the left turn upon the highway might affect the operation of another vehicle.

Cooley v. Baker, 231 N.C. 533, 536, 58 S.E.2d 115, 117 (1950). “[W]henever the operation of another vehicle will not be affected by starting, stopping, or turning, no signal is required by thestatute.” Clarke v. Holman, 1 N.C. App. 176, 179, 160 S.E.2d 552, 554, affirmed, 274 N.C. 425, 163 S.E.2d 783 (1968) (quoting N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-154(a)). Whether a driver should have reasonably anticipated that the operation of any other vehicle might be affected by such movement is an issue of fact. Kidd v. Burton, 269 N.C. 267, 271, 152 S.E.2d 162, 165 (1967).
    While defendant acknowledges that he did not signal his right turn, he notes that the street onto which he turned was one-way and had a concrete median which prevented him from proceeding in any direction other than a right turn. Thus, defendant contends no traffic violation occurred because no other vehicle could be affected by his movement in turning right after stopping at the intersection. Officer Rush's vehicle was following defendant, but defendant asserts that, since he had already come to a complete stop at the intersection and could only turn right, his turning could not have affected Officer Rush's vehicle within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-154(a).
    We disagree, concluding that defendant's vehicle could have affected Officer Rush's car, and that a signal was required. For example, defendant's vehicle might have been unable to move because the vehicle had broken down or defendant might have fallen asleep or been unconscious at the wheel. Defendant might have been stopped indefinitely at the intersection to consult a map or speak on a cellular phone, and could even have intended to back up and turn around. Because the vehicle behind defendant could not have known what his movement would be, the operation of Officer Rush'svehicle may have been affected. Thus, the officer's traffic stop was proper, and the trial court did not err in denying the motion to suppress the firearm.
    Judges STEELMAN and JACKSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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