NC: Question is RS for a traffic violation, not that one actually occurred

Defendant was driving on a snowy evening and pulled out from a traffic light and fishtailed, the rear of his truck heading for a sidewalk, but he regained control without going off the road. The trial court found reasonable suspicion for the stop, and the Court of Appeals reversed. This court finds reasonable suspicion because it was reasonable for the officer to believe that a violation occurred, not that one actually be proved to have occurred. State v. Johnson, 2017 N.C. LEXIS 552 (Aug. 18, 2017), rev’g 784 S.E.2d 633 (N.C. App. 2016):

But again, in order to have reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop based on a violation that an officer allegedly observed, the officer does not need to observe an actual traffic violation. To be sure, when a defendant does in fact commit a traffic violation, it is constitutional for the police to pull the defendant over. See, e.g., Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407, 125 S. Ct. 834, 160 L. Ed. 2d 842 (2005). But while an actual violation is sufficient, it is not necessary. To meet the reasonable suspicion standard, it is enough for the officer to reasonably believe that a driver has violated the law. See Styles, 362 N.C. at 415-16, 665 S.E.2d at 440-41; accord Delfin—Colina, 464 F.3d at 398; Chanthasouxat, 342 F.3d at 1277 (quoting Cashman, 216 F.3d at 587). In other words, even if defendant could show—had he been charged with violating subsection 20-141(a)—that he had not in fact violated that subsection, the traffic stop in this case was still constitutional as long as it was reasonable for Officer Gardin to believe that he saw defendant violate that subsection. Reasonable belief is a less stringent standard than legal certainty.

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