STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v. Guilford County
No. 04 CRS 69643-46
RODERICK SHELTON MCLAUGHLIN
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General Jay
Osborne, for the State.
Gilda C. Rodriguez for defendant-appellant.
Roderick Shelton McLaughlin (defendant) appeals pursuant to
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-979(b) from an order denying his motion to
Defendant pled no contest on 13 June 2005 to possession
with intent to sell or deliver counterfeit drugs, carrying a
concealed weapon, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession with
intent to sell or deliver cocaine, possession of cocaine,
possession of drugs in jail, and habitual felon status. The trial
court consolidated all of the offenses into a single judgment and
imposed an active term of imprisonment for a minimum of 93 months
and a maximum of 121 months.
The evidence of the State at the suppression hearing tends to show that at approximately 11:20 p.m. on 16 February 2004, OfficerBenjamin Altizer, a member of the Tactical Special Enforcement Team (TSET) of the Greensboro Police Department, observed two men meet in the parking lot in front of an Exxon station located at 1409 South Eugene Street. This was an area having a reputation as an open air drug market. Officer Altizer saw the men trade something and one of the men enter the passenger seat of a burgundy Lincoln Town Car automobile. Believing he had just witnessed a drug transaction, Officer Altizer reported by radio to other members of the team what he had observed.
Officer T.D. Moore, another TSET member, heard Officer Altizer's radio report about witnessing an apparent drug transaction and observing one of the participants get into a burgundy Lincoln Town Car automobile. Officer Moore spotted a vehicle matching that description headed on Eugene Street in the direction reported by Officer Altizer. Officer Moore proceeded to follow the Lincoln in his unmarked vehicle. Officer Moore observed that the Lincoln automobile, occupied by two people, did not have a visible light over its license tag and that its driver did not have a seat belt engaged. Officer Moore stopped the vehicle and advised the driver of these violations. Officer Moore requested the driver, identified as Willie Rufus Galloway, Jr., to step out of the vehicle. The right front passenger, identified as defendant, remained in the vehicle as Officer Moore spoke to Galloway at the rear of the vehicle. Officer Moore issued a citation to Galloway, charging him with the violations.
Officer Anthony Hill of the TSET stopped to assist OfficerMoore. He observed several pieces of a white rock substance on the floorboard of the stopped vehicle. He retrieved the substance after the driver exited the vehicle.
Officer Kenneth Jones of the Greensboro Police Department also assisted Officer Moore with the vehicle stop. As the driver exited the vehicle, Officer Jones observed an off-white substance on the floorboard. Officer Jones asked the passenger, defendant, to exit the vehicle. Defendant complied and Officer Jones asked defendant whether he had any weapons or drugs on his person. Defendant responded that he did not have any weapons. Officer Jones then asked defendant for permission to conduct a patdown search. As he patted defendant down for weapons, Officer Jones asked defendant for permission to search his person. Defendant responded, No, I don't mind. Officer Jones searched defendant and found in his front left waistband a small, hard plastic tube which he believed to be a pipe for smoking crack cocaine. He also found some white and brown paper containing small objects identified by defendant as wax. Officer Jones also found in defendant's waistband a bag containing an off-white rock substance. Officer Jones arrested defendant. He continued to search defendant's person and found in defendant's jacket pocket a tube with white residue on it.
Defendant testified that he gave consent to a patdown search for weapons but he did not give consent to reach into his pockets and clothing.
In denying the motion to suppress, the court found that Officer Moore had a reasonable basis to stop the car because ofequipment and seat belt violations and that Officer Jones had a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity based on suspicious activity in a high drug area and what appeared to be cocaine on the floorboard. The court further found that defendant voluntarily consented to a search of his person and that Officer Jones had probable cause to arrest defendant.
Defendant contends the court erred in denying the motion to suppress. He argues the initial stop of the vehicle was a pretextual stop. He also argues that the consent to search his person was not voluntarily given.
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