State v. Winchester, ___ N.C. App. ___, 818 S.E.2d 306 (Jul. 17, 2018)

In this drug trafficking case, a warrant to search the defendant’s person and vehicle was supported by probable cause. After a three-month investigation prompted by a confidential informant’s tip that the defendant was dealing heroin, Detective Cole obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s residence for evidence of drug dealing. The warrant also authorized the search of a specified Range Rover and of the defendant. On appeal the defendant argued that the searches of his person and vehicle were not supported by probable cause. He conceded that there was probable cause to search the house. The court rejected the defendant’s argument noting that a confidential informant known to law enforcement stated that the defendant was using the Range Rover to transport heroin and other drugs to and from the residence and was selling drugs from the vehicle. The ensuing investigation included authorized GPS tracking of the Range Rover and visual surveillance of the defendant and the vehicle. It revealed that the defendant appeared to reside at the residence and that he frequented locations known for drug sales. Additionally at one point the defendant was stopped in the vehicle which displayed a fictitious or altered tag and when the defendant’s driving privileges had been suspended or revoked. Officers performed “trash pulls” at the residence which found paraphernalia that tested positive for heroin and cocaine, as well as bills and other papers indicating that the defendant lived there. The most recent trash pull occurred within one week of the search. These facts support the trial court’s conclusion that there was probable cause to issue the warrant to search the defendant and the Range Rover. The confidential informant’s statements were corroborated by a month’s-long investigation, the drug evidence recovered from the multiple trash pulls was not stale, and the allegations sufficiently linked the defendant and the Range Rover to the residence and the known drug evidence.

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