In the Matter of V.C.R., 227 N.C. App. 80 (2013)


The court held that both seizures of the juvenile were supported by reasonable suspicion. A Raleigh police officer was patrolling a residential community at night when he spotted a group of juveniles walking down the sidewalk. One of them, V.C.R., was smoking a cigarette and the officer stopped and asked her how old she was. When V.C.R. responded that she was 15 years old, the officer asked her to put out her cigarette and give him the pack of cigarettes she was holding. After she complied, the officer began to drive away, but stopped again when he heard V.C.R. yell “What the f---, man.” The officer exited his patrol car, approached V.C.R., and told the other juveniles to keep walking. He then asked V.C.R. for identification and engaged her in conversation, during which she raised her arms and revealed a “round bulge” in her front pants pocket. The officer instructed her to empty per pockets, and she complied, revealing a small bag of marijuana. The juvenile moved to suppress the evidence as the product of two seizures and a search that each violated the federal and state constitutions. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and the juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for simple possession of marijuana. The court held initial stop was proper because the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe the juvenile was violating G.S. 14-313(c) (unlawful for a minor to purchase or “accept receipt” of cigarettes). Even if the officer had acted on an assumption that possession of cigarettes by a minor was an offense, our Supreme Court held in State v. Heien, 366 N.C. 271, 737 S.E.2d 351 (2012), that an officer’s mistake of law does not always result in the lack of reasonable suspicion. The second stop was proper because while merely stating an obscenity to another individual may be protected speech, the right of free speech is not unlimited. Referencing the offense of disorderly conduct under G.S. 14-288.4(a)(2), the court found this seizure “permissible, given [the juvenile’s] loud and profane language.” Concurring Opinion:  The concurring judge would have concluded that the second encounter was unconstitutional based on the lack of record evidence that the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the juvenile for disorderly conduct.

Motions to Suppress
Search and Seizure
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