Case Results

Evidence Suppressed, Cannabis Charge Dismissed

December 2017

Client was charged with possession of cannabis (marijuana) after being pulled over for allegedly speeding, and then investigated for suspicion of DWI. On appeal to Superior Court, attorney Sean Cecil filed a motion to suppress the drugs on the grounds that they were discovered as the result of a consitutionally impermissible intrusion on the client's privacy. After the citing officer's testimony and Mr. Cecil's cross-examination, the Superior Court Judge agreed that the length of the officer's "investigatory detention" was not justified by a reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior. Although the officer testified that he suspected the defendant was DWI, cross-examination revealed that the Deputy had not made any observations common to DWI. Although he testified that he followed the client for several minutes, he did not observe any poor or erratic driving, the defendant did not swerve in his lane, and he pulled over an appropriate amount of time after signalled to do so. The rest of the Deputy's testimony was not consistent with a constitutional investigatory detention, and the Judge ruled that the cannabis evidence was the inadmissable "fruit of the poisonous tree." 

In order to prolong a traffic stop to investigate the possibility of criminal activity, a law enforcement must have a "reasonable, articulable suspicion" that criminal activity is afoot. This can be a very fact-specific examination; courts have not been consistent in what length of detention is permitted, nor what constitutes a "reasonable articulable" suspicion. However, the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Rodriguez is still good law and generally limits criminal investigations that result from traffic stops. People who are interested in learning more about this specific area of law as it is applied in the 4th Circuit should read U.S. v. Bowman an up to date case published March 1, 2018. 

Practice area(s): Criminal Defense

Court: Wake County Superior Court

Sean P. Cecil

Sean is an experienced advocate dedicated to justice for all people. He believes that individual human rights outweigh the freedom to make an easy dollar.