State v. Walker, ___ N.C. App. ___, 806 S.E.2d 326 (Oct. 3, 2017)

No reasonable suspicion supported a stop. At approximately 5 pm dispatch notified a trooper on routine patrol that an informant-driver reported that another driver was driving while intoxicated. The informant reported that the driver was driving from the Hubert area towards Jacksonville, traveling about 80 to 100 mph while drinking a beer. He also claimed that the driver was driving “very erratically” and almost ran him off the road “a few times.” While responding to the dispatch, the informant flagged down the trooper and said that the vehicle in question had just passed through the intersection on US 258, heading towards Richlands. The trooper headed in that direction and stopped the defendant’s vehicle within 1/10 of a mile from the intersection. The defendant was arrested and charged with DWI and careless and reckless driving. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress in District Court and appealed to Superior Court. After a hearing, the Superior Court granted the motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals found that the tip did not have sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion for the stop. Although the informant was not anonymous, because the defendant’s vehicle was out of sight, the informant was unable to specifically point out the defendant’s vehicle to the trooper. The trooper did not observe the vehicle being driven in a suspicious or erratic fashion. Additionally, it is unknown whether the trooper had the vehicle’s license plate number before or after the stop and whether the trooper had any vehicle description besides a “gray Ford passenger vehicle.” The court distinguished prior case law involving tips that provided enough information so that there was no doubt as to which particular vehicle was being reported. Here, the informant’s ambiguous description did not specify a particular vehicle. Additionally, no other circumstances enabled the trooper to further corroborate the tip; the trooper did not witness the vehicle behaving as described by the informant.