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North Carolina Supreme Court rules in challenge to DWI stop

Last year, a three judge panel on the North Carolina Court of Appeals split in a challenge to a DWI arrest. Firefighters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, used the lights and sirens on a fire truck to pull over a woman who the captain of the fire crew thought may have been under the influence.

Two of the appellate judges said that the trial court needed to make more findings as to whether the firefighters were acting under government authority in making the traffic stop, and if so, whether that use of authority was unlawful. As we discussed last year, a third judge dissented, finding that the show of authority amounted to an unlawful traffic stop.

The case was appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The high court ruled earlier this month that the police lawfully conducted a traffic stop and upheld the woman’s DWI conviction. The Supreme Court says that the firefighters reported the alleged erratic driver before activating the lights on the truck. The woman pulled over for a period of time before leaving the firefighters. Police were given a description of the vehicle and found the car a short-time later.

The high court says that police acted lawfully and the use of the lights on the fire truck did not change that analysis. The high court says that police responded to the call from the firefighters and made an independent investigation. The Supreme Court says that it did not have to evaluate the actions of the firefighters. The high court upheld the DWI conviction.

Source: News and Observer, “NC Supreme Court says firetruck stop does not change Chapel Hill woman’s DWI verdict,” Bruce Siceloff, June 12, 2014; North Carolina Supreme Court, “State v. Verkerk No. 421A13," June 12, 2014

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