State v. King, 206 N.C. App. 585 (Aug. 17, 2010)

An officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that the defendant was armed and dangerous justifying a pat-down frisk. Around midnight, the officer stopped the defendant’s vehicle after determining that the tag was registered to a different car; prior to the stop, the defendant and his passenger had looked oddly at the officer. After the stop, the defendant held his hands out of the window, volunteered that he had a gun, which was loaded, and when exiting the vehicle, removed his coat, even though it was cold outside. At this point, the pat down occurred. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that his efforts to show that he did not pose a threat obviated the need for the pat down. It also rejected the defendant’s argument that the discovery of the gun could not support a reasonable suspicion that he still might be armed and dangerous; instead the court concluded that the confirmed presence of a weapon is a compelling factor justifying a frisk, even where that weapon is secured and out of the defendant’s reach. Additionally, the officer was entitled to formulate “common-sense conclusions,” based upon an observed pattern that one weapon often signals the presence other weapons, in believing that the defendant, who had already called the officer’s attention to one readily visible weapon, might be armed.

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