NC: Whether def was seized was what she could only believe

Defendant claimed she was lost and was stopped by police, blocking her exit. [Oversolicitously,] the court opines the officer probably thought he did nothing wrong but this was a seizure in defendant’s mind, and it was without reasonable suspicion. No reasonable person would think she was free to leave. State v. Eagle, 2022-NCCOA-680, 2022 N.C. App. LEXIS 711 (Oct. 18, 2022):

[P33] In sum, when one examines all the attendant circumstances surrounding this encounter, the only reasonable conclusion is that Defendant was seized by Deputy Belk—especially when one examines this encounter from the perspective of a reasonable person in Defendant’s position. Around 3:19 A.M. on 14 November 2019, Defendant was lost and pulled into a short driveway that was gated and locked. The street was completely empty aside from Defendant and Deputy Belk, and it was dark due to the absence of street lights on a rural road. Deputy Belk drove slowly past the driveway, only partway past Defendant’s car, put her patrol vehicle in reverse, and slowly backed back down the road. Deputy Belk pulled partially into the driveway—activating her lights as she did so—and stopped behind Defendant’s car, impeding Defendant’s ability to back out of the driveway.

[*P34] We are not expressing the view that Deputy Belk did anything wrong and it may be true that she did not believe this was a stop. However, when analyzed from the view of a reasonable person in Defendant’s position, even at this early point in the encounter, any reasonable person would have realized that they were the target of police suspicion and were likewise not free to drive off. To hold otherwise could instigate the escalation of encounters between the police and drivers in North Carolina and lead to far worse results for those involved.

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