State v. Fizovic, 240 N.C. App. 448 (Apr. 7, 2015)

A search of the defendant’s vehicle was properly done incident to the defendant’s arrest for an open container offense, where the officer had probable cause to arrest before the search even though the formal arrest did not occur until after the search was completed. The court noted that under Gant “[a]n officer may conduct a warrantless search of a suspect’s vehicle incident to his arrest if he has a reasonable belief that evidence related to the offense of arrest may be found inside the vehicle.” Here, the trial court’s unchallenged findings of fact that it is common to find alcohol in vehicles of individuals stopped for alcohol violations; and that the center console in defendant’s car was large enough to hold beer cans support the conclusion that the arresting officer had a reasonable belief that evidence related to the open container violation might be found in the defendant’s vehicle. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the search was an unconstitutional “search incident to citation,” noting that the defendant was arrested, not issued a citation.