State v. Leak, 368 N.C. 570 (Dec. 18, 2015)

The supreme court vacated the decision below, State v. Leak, ___ N.C. App. ___, 773 S.E.2d 340 (2015), and ordered that the court of appeals remand to the trial court for reconsideration of the defendant’s motion to suppress in light of Rodriguez v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015). The court of appeals had held that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when an officer, who had approached the defendant’s legally parked car without reasonable suspicion, took the defendant’s driver’s license to his patrol vehicle. The court of appeals concluded that until the officer took the license, the encounter was consensual and no reasonable suspicion was required: “[the officer] required no particular justification to approach defendant and ask whether he required assistance, or to ask defendant to voluntarily consent to allowing [the officer] to examine his driver’s license and registration.” However, the court of appeals concluded that the officer’s conduct of taking the defendant’s license to his patrol car to investigate its status constituted a seizure that was not justified by reasonable suspicion. Citing Rodriguez (police may not extend a completed vehicle stop for a dog sniff, absent reasonable suspicion), the court of appeals rejected the suggestion that no violation occurred because any seizure was “de minimus” in nature.