People v. Hayes.
2020 COA 175. No. 18CA1001. Traffic Stop—License Plates—Fourth Amendment—Suppression of Evidence.
December 31, 2020
A police officer stopped a car because the officer could not see either a license plate or a temporary plate on the car. Defendant was a passenger in the car. The officer conducted a warrant check on the car’s occupants, discovered outstanding warrants for defendant, and arrested him. During booking, another officer found a plastic bag containing methamphetamine in defendant’s pocket, and he was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, and after a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. Defendant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. He contended that the traffic stop was pretextual and the officer should have discontinued the stop when he saw a temporary plate on the vehicle. However, the initial basis for the stop (the missing license plate) was supported by reasonable suspicion, and the officer was justified in continuing the stop because the temporary plate was not affixed on the vehicle in the location required by law. Further, once the officer discovered the outstanding warrants, there was probable cause for defendant’s arrest. Accordingly, the later discovery of the drugs did not violate the Fourth Amendment, and the trial court correctly denied the suppression motion.
The judgment of conviction was affirmed.