State v. Taseen Johnson, 246 N.C. App. 677 (Apr. 5, 2016)

(1) In this drug trafficking case, the officer had reasonable suspicion to extend a traffic stop. After Officer Ward initiated a traffic stop and asked the driver for his license and registration, the driver produced his license but was unable to produce a registration. The driver’s license listed his address as Raleigh, but he could not give a clear answer as to whether he resided in Brunswick County or Raleigh. Throughout the conversation, the driver changed his story about where he resided. The driver was speaking into one cell phone and had two other cell phones on the center console of his vehicle. The officer saw a vehicle power control (VPC) module on the floor of the vehicle, an unusual item that might be associated with criminal activity. When Ward attempted to question the defendant, a passenger, the defendant mumbled answers and appeared very nervous. Ward then determined that the driver’s license was inactive, issued him a citation and told him he was free to go. However, Ward asked the driver if he would mind exiting the vehicle to answer a few questions. Officer Ward also asked the driver if he could pat him down and the driver agreed. Meanwhile, Deputy Arnold, who was assisting, observed a rectangular shaped bulge underneath the defendant’s shorts, in his crotch area. When he asked the defendant to identify the item, the defendant responded that it was his male anatomy. Arnold asked the defendant to step out of the vehicle so that he could do a patdown; before this could be completed, a Ziploc bag containing heroin fell from the defendant’s shorts. The extension of the traffic stop was justified: the driver could not answer basic questions, such as where he was coming from and where he lived; the driver changed his story; the driver could not explain why he did not have his registration; the presence of the VPC was unusual; and the defendant was extremely nervous and gave vague answers to the officer’s questions. (2) The officer properly frisked the defendant. The defendant’s nervousness, evasiveness, and failure to identify what was in his shorts, coupled with the size and nature of the object supported a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was armed and dangerous.