State v. Williams, 366 N.C. 110 (Jun. 14, 2012)

The court affirmed State v. Williams, 215 N.C. App. 1 (Aug. 16, 2011) (reasonable articulable suspicion justified extending the traffic stop). The officer stopped the vehicle in which the defendant was a passenger for having illegally tinted windows and issued a citation. The officer then asked for and was denied consent to search the vehicle. Thereafter he called for a canine trained in drug detection; when the dog arrived it alerted on the car and drugs were found. Several factors supported the trial court’s determination that reasonable suspicion supported extending the stop. First, the driver told the officer that she and the defendant were coming from Houston, Texas, which was illogical given their direction of travel. Second, the defendant’s inconsistent statement that they were coming from Kentucky and were traveling to Myrtle Beach “raises a suspicion as to the truthfulness of the statements.” Third, the driver’s inability to tell the officer where they were going, along with her illogical answer about driving from Houston, permitted an inference that she “was being deliberately evasive, that she had been hired as a driver and intentionally kept uninformed, or that she had been coached as to her response if stopped.” Fourth, the fact that the defendant initially suggested the two were cousins but then admitted that they just called each other cousins based on their long-term relationship “could raise a suspicion that the alleged familial relationship was a prearranged fabrication.” Finally, the vehicle, which had illegally tinted windows, was owned by a third person. The court concluded:

Viewed individually and in isolation, any of these facts might not support a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. But viewed as a whole by a trained law enforcement officer who is familiar with drug trafficking and illegal activity on interstate highways, the responses were sufficient to provoke a reasonable articulable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot and to justify extending the detention until a canine unit arrived.