In State v Moore South Carolina Court of Appeals Issues a Significant Opinion in the Field of Traffic Stops and Search and Seizures

Posted on December 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

CCase Name: State v Moore (South Carolina Court of Appeals,

Opinion No. 5160; filed July 17, 2013)

Officers Dale Owens, Donnie Gilbert, Ken Hancock and K-9 Deputy Jason
Carraway, all of the Spartanburg County, Sheriff's Office) were patrolling US Interstate-85
in Spartanburg County around 1:00 a.m. Owens observed the defendant
(Ashley Eugene Moore), traveling an estimated 10 miles an hour over the posted
speed limit. Owens also observed Moore execute an improper lane
change. Owens activated his blue lights and stopped the defendant.
Owens testified that it took the defendant longer than the average motorist to
stop and that he failed to release his left turn signal. Officer Owens
observed Moore talking on his cell phone as he approached the vehicle.
Owens opined that the average motorist would have ended the phone call when an
officer approached their vehicle and that drug traffickers often leave a cell
phone on so that their superiors can hear the contents of the traffic
stop. An alcoholic odor emanated from the defendant's vehicle.
Moore informed Owens that the vehicle was a rental and provided the rental
agreement, along with his driver's license. Officer Owens testified that
the defendant was extremely nervous, with his hands shaking noticeably and his
breathing clearly accelerated. The defendant consented to a "pat down
search". Officer Owens observed and seized "a large wad of money" from
Moore's person. Moore had indicated he was unemployed. Moore stated
he was travelling from a suburb of Atlanta to Marion, North Carolina to visit
his grandmother. It was determined that a third party had rented the
vehicle for Moore. Moore declined consent for Officer Owens to
search the vehicle. subsequently, Owens issued a warning ticket to Moore for his moving
violations. Critically, Officer Owens decided to detain Moore until the
K-9 drug unit could arrive. The dog alerted to an odor inside the car and
the officer searched the vehicle. Crack cocaine was found in two containers
in a bag in the trunk, along with a semi-automatic weapon and a bundle of

Moore was indicted for trafficking crack cocaine and possession of a weapon
during the commission of a violent crime.


Moore's case was called to trial on April 25, 2011. The defendant's
attorney argued for suppression of all the evidence found from the K-9 search
on the basis that Officer Owens lacked "reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity" to further detain Moore beyond the scope of the initial traffic stop
which ended when the warning ticket was issued. The state argued against
this motion for suppression. The trial judge denied the defendant's
motion for suppression and Moore was convicted on both charges.


Did the seizure and subsequent search of the defendant, and his vehicle,
violate the defendant's 4th Amendment rights?


Yes. The trial court's denial of the defendant's motion to suppress
evidence was in error. Although the arresting officer testified and
pointed out multiple factors for his extended detention of the defendant, these
factors (nervousness, a wad of cash money and unusual travel plans) do not
eliminate a substantial portion of innocent travelers and do not pass muster
under state and federal case law construing a citizen's 4th Amendment

In the case at bar, testimony regarding "alleged flight indicators" on the
part of the defendant lost the majority of their significance when the
defendant cooperated, stayed throughout the traffic stop and performed field
sobriety tests. A "wad of money" (when it could have consisted of one
dollar bills or 100 dollar bills?) does not reasonably contribute to an
officer's suspicions.

In summary, we find that the state presented a similar case to State v
Tindall, 388 S. C. 518, 698 S.E. 2d 203 (2010). In Tindall,
the defendant was driving to visit a family member, the vehicle was rented by a
third party, he was coming from a major city known as a drug hub and he
displayed nervous conduct throughout the entire traffic stop. Clearly,
these facts did not provide Officer Owens with reasonable suspicion of a
serious crime; and when the defendant declined the request to search the
vehicle, his continued detention was illegal. The weapon and drugs discovered
during the search of the vehicle should have and must be suppressed.


On August 9, 2013 I posted a write-up of a critical opinion recently issued
by the South Carolina Court of Appeals for defendants in traffic stop
cases. Clearly, the logic employed in the Moore opinion can have a
direct and positive impact in South Carolina DUI/drunk driving cases. For
example I argued under similar cases for a client in 2011 and was able to
convince the judge to dismiss the pending DUI. Briefly, the facts
elicited before the court are as follows: The defendant (my client) was stopped
in Greenville County, South Carolina for traveling 78 mph in a 45 mph
zone. The deputy approached my client and requested his driver's license
and other basic information. This total interaction lasted approximately 1
minute and 15 seconds. The deputy then went back to his patrol car and
stayed for approximately 12 minutes. Afterwards, he returned to my
client's car and issued him several traffic tickets. This interaction
lasted approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds. After giving my client the
two traffic tickets the officer then inquired about any previous alcohol
consumption. Ultimately, my client was asked to perform field sobriety
tests and then placed under arrest and charged with DUI/drunk driving.

I argued that the officer lacked "reasonable suspicion of further criminal
activity" to continue the defendant's detention beyond the point where he had
issued him the two traffic tickets. The court agreed and granted our
motion to dismiss under the 4th Amendment and under the very same
logic and argument as presented in State v Moore.

South Carolina DUI Attorney Steve Sumner primarily handles misdemeanor
and felony DUI/drunk driving defense. Steve is a South Carolina Super
Lawyer® in the field of DUI defense. He is a member of the National Trial
Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers. He is a member the National
College for DUI Defense, holds an AV-preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell®
and a "Superb" ranking with Avvo. He is a frequent lecturer and author on
topics related to the defense of DUI charges. He represents clients in
Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson counties, South Carolina.

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