State v. Sellars, 222 N.C. App. 245 (Aug. 7, 2012)

The trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion to suppress on grounds that officers impermissibly prolonged a lawful vehicle stop. Officers McKaughan and Jones stopped the defendant’s vehicle after it twice weaved out of its lane. The officers had a drug dog with them. McKaughan immediately determined that the defendant was not impaired. Although the defendant’s hand was shaking, he did not show extreme nervousness. McKaughan told the defendant he would not get a citation but asked him to come to the police vehicle. While “casual conversation” ensued in the police car, Jones stood outside the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant was polite, cooperative, and responsive. Upon entering the defendant’s identifying information into his computer, McKaughan found an “alert” indicating that the defendant was a “drug dealer” and “known felon.” He returned the defendant’s driver’s license and issued a warning ticket. While still in the police car, McKaughan asked the defendant if he had any drugs or weapons in his car. The defendant said no. After the defendant refused to give consent for a dog sniff of the vehicle, McKaughan had the dog do a sniff. The dog alerted to narcotics in the vehicle and a search revealed a bag of cocaine. The period between when the warning ticket was issued and the dog sniff occurred was four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Surveying two lines of cases from the court which “appear to reach contradictory conclusions” on the question of whether a de minimis delay is unconstitutional, the court reconciled the cases and held that any prolonged detention of the defendant for the purpose of the drug dog sniff was de minimis and did not violate his rights. [Author’s note: State v. Warren, ___ N.C. App. ___, 775 S.E.2d 362 (2015), indicates that this case was overruled by Rodriguez].