State v. Hester, ___ N.C. App. ___, 803 S.E.2d 8 (Jul. 18, 2017)

The court held, over a dissent, that even if the initial stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion, the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress where the evidence sought to be suppressed--a stolen handgun--was obtained after the defendant committed a separate crime: pointing a loaded, stolen gun at the deputy and pulling the trigger. The evidence at issue was admissible under the attenuation doctrine, a doctrine holding that evidence is admissible when the connection between the unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstance, so that the interest protected by the constitutional guarantee that has been violated would not be served by suppression. Here, the State presented a sufficient intervening event—the defendant’s commission of a crime--to break any causal chain between the presumably unlawful stop and the discovery of the stolen handgun. It added: “This Court can conceive only in the most rare instances where [the] deterrence benefits of police conduct to suppress a firearm outweigh[s] its substantial social costs of preventing a defendant from carrying a concealed, loaded, and stolen firearm, pulling it at an identified law enforcement officer and pulling the trigger.” (quotations omitted). The court rejected the notion that the State could not assert the attenuation doctrine on appeal because it failed to argue that issue before the trial court.

There was dissenting opinion in this case.