State v. Jones, ___ N.C. App. ___, 825 S.E.2d 260 (Mar. 5, 2019)

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, which argued that officers improperly extended a traffic stop. Officers initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle for a passenger seatbelt violation. The defendant was in the passenger seat. That seat was leaned very far back while the defendant was leaning forward with his head near his knees in an awkward position. The defendant’s hands were around his waist, not visible to the officer. The officer believed that based on the defendant’s position he was possibly hiding a gun. When the officer introduced himself, the defendant glanced up, looked around the front area of the vehicle, but did not change position. The officer testified that the defendant’s behavior was not typical. The defendant was unable to produce an identity document, but stated that he was not going to lie about his identity. The officer testified that this statement was a sign of deception. The officer asked the defendant to exit the vehicle. When the defendant exited, he turned and pressed against the vehicle while keeping both hands around his waist. The defendant denied having any weapons and consented to a search of his person. Subsequently a large wad of paper towels fell from the defendant’s pants. More than 56 grams of cocaine was in the paper towels and additional contraband was found inside the vehicle. The defendant was charged with drug offenses. He unsuccessfully moved to suppress. On appeal he argued that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to extend the traffic stop. The court disagreed, holding that the officer’s conduct did not prolong the stop beyond the time reasonably required to complete its mission. When the defendant was unable to provide identification, the officer “attempted to more efficiently conduct the requisite database checks” and complete the mission of the stop by asking the defendant to exit the vehicle. Because the officer’s conduct did not extend the traffic stop, no additional showing of reasonable suspicion was required.

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