Court rules that man’s rights violated by Winston-Salem police search

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A Winston-Salem man’s constitutional rights were violated when a police officer stopped him for a minor traffic infraction and then searched his vehicle for drugs and weapons without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

In its decision, the appeals court said that Officer Jordan Payne of the Winston-Salem Police Department had no right to search Anthony Cottrell’s car once he had cleared Cottrell for the reasons of the traffic stop — driving at night with his headlights off and possibly violating the city’s noise ordinance. Payne seized a handgun, a plastic bag containing cocaine and another containing marijuana.

Cottrell, 37, pleaded guilty Feb. 11, 2013, in Forsyth Superior Court to possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a schedule II controlled substance and possession of up to ½-ounce of marijuana. He also pleaded guilty to being a habitual felon. Judge Susan Bray consolidated the charges and sentenced Cottrell to about six to eight years in prison.

But the appeals court ruled that Bray shouldn’t have denied Cottrell’s motion to suppress, which was heard before Cottrell entered his guilty pleas. The court sent the case back to Forsyth Superior Court for an order vacating Cottrell’s guilty pleas.

“Accordingly, the officer’s continued detention of defendant violated defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures and defendant’s subsequent consent to a search of his car was involuntary as a matter of law,” the court ruled.

Chief Barry Rountree of the Winston-Salem Police Department did not respond to a message seeking comment. Katherine Jane Allen, the attorney who represented Cottrell in his appeal, could not be reached for comment.

Al Andrews, deputy city attorney, said city officials are reviewing the opinion and will determine whether there are any procedural or training impacts from the opinion.

“We are unable to comment any further on the same day as the opinion is issued, but as always, we respect the opinions by the N.C. Courts of Appeal and will govern ourselves accordingly,” he said.

This is what happened, according to the appeals court ruling:

Payne stopped Cottrell at 11:37 p.m. on Trade Street on May 28, 2012. Cottrell pulled into a nearby parking lot. Payne took Cottrell’s license and registration and told Cottrell that he had stopped him because his headlights were off. Payne told Cottrell that if everything checked out with his license and registration, Cottrell would be free to go, according to the court’s ruling.

However, that didn’t happen. Payne found that Cottrell’s license and registration were valid and that he didn’t have any outstanding warrants. But Cottrell did have a history of drug charges and other felonies. When Payne returned to Cottrell’s car, he reported smelling a strong cologne-type fragrance that he believed was a cover scent used to mask the odor of drugs, according to the ruling.

Payne told Cottrell his suspicions, which Cottrell denied, and Payne asked to search Cottrell’s car. Cottrell refused but Payne said he would call for a police dog to sniff for drugs. Cottrell said he wanted to just go home, but Payne insisted, according to the ruling.

Cottrell then consented to the search. Payne frisked Cottrell and found no weapons. When Payne searched the vehicle, he found a handgun and a plastic bag containing cocaine in the glove box. Payne arrested Cottrell, and Cottrell admitted to having a plastic bag containing marijuana in his sock.

The appeals court said that Payne detained Cottrell beyond the scope of the traffic stop without getting Cottrell’s valid consent and without a reasonable suspicion of a crime.

The appeals court said in its decision that Payne did not report any evidence that Cottrell was impaired, including red or glassy eyes, and had essentially completed the reasons for why he had stopped Cottrell.

The cologne-like odor and Cottrell’s previous criminal history, the court ruled, were not enough to establish reasonable suspicion that Cottrell had committed a crime.


    • sinner 3

      Unless the weapon was proven to be stolen than he would likely get it back,the problem is that as a convicted felon prior to these now dismissed charges, he would still break the law by simply having it in his possession !

    • Jeremy Martin

      no he was profiled and that was wrong, he had no reason to search his car. Everything checked out, let him go. Dont continue to try and find a reason to arrest. That is harassment. Point blank “black” period

      • Brock Martin

        No he was stopped for driving with his Lights off, thats not profiling, he then found he was a habitual felon after running his credentials. Combine with a cover smell in the car, and what-a-you know the guy had Drugs and a Concealed weapon.

  • Jessica Matt Poff

    I am confused. If he had the stuff on him then he is guilty. Obliviously the cop suspected something and was right. So why are the ruling that his right’s were violated? I mean good grief. So now this teaches people that they can do things they know are illegal and still get away with it.

    • Chris

      Ugh, what? Are you really this stupid or only play one on the Internet? How come people scream about protecting their 2nd Amendment right, but are OK with an African American being illegally searched and seized? You can’t pick and choose which part of the Constitution to like and obey.

      • Jessica Matt Poff

        Um ok Chris, Sounds like you are a screaming criminal trying to protect rights to do things illegally here. We are not talking about the rights being violated to things that “are” legal. And also where does it say he was an African American? You must know this person personally otherwise I highly doubt you would be defending them. When you are in the wrong then you are in the wrong. And this person was. He was doing something he knew he was not suppose to do and that is carry drugs illegally. Like I said the cop must have suspected something was up and sure enough the cop was right. Man, Can’t fix stupid can ya???

    • john jacob

      Wow you and so many others are oblivious to the law and desperately need to learn it before you open your mouth and others open their mouths…The law works like this, on both parties (cop and suspect or alleged suspect)…The cop would have gotten a legit bust IF he said that the guy was swerving or anything in that nature BUT he pulled the guy over originally for his headlights being off (that is also on video camera from the cop cars dash camera therefore the cop couldn’t have lied about other violations.) The perp also had no visible sight of the gun and drugs, therefore the cop had no legal right to search the car. He was also set free because of no other original “probable cause”. The cop could have been lying about the “cologne being strong” just for an excuse to try to violate the perps rights and get a bust because of the perps past. The cops intuitions were clearly correct but he went about it the wrong and illegal way. Granted it would’ve been nice to have another felon off the streets but it just so happens that it didn’t work out like that. As far as the drugs and gun goes, those are definitely confiscated.

    • ronnie james

      Jessica Matt Poff you are truly a piece of work. You show how naive you are to the ways of the world. There should have never been a search after the man complied with the officers request. He should have been released, he was profiled whether it was by race, history , smell or looks. All are wrong and infringe on his rights the exact same ones you have with french perfume you have on.

    • dewey

      if a cop pulls someone over for a traffic infraction, that is supposed to be the “scope” of the stop….he can’t question any passengers, can’t “phish” around unless something illegal is in plain sight, it should be a ticket and go or nothing at all……imagine your sick mother dropped an oxycontin in your car, you aren’t aware of it, but during a normal traffic stop, the cop sees it….all of a sudden, you got trafficking charges…all from a pill you didn’t know was in your car…or maybe you did??

    • dewey

      not really….it’s just in your best interest to have someone in your corner who KNOWS the law, Constitutional law, even better…..the violent street gang with the badges just got one denied……how many other times have they gotten away with this?

  • truth-hurts

    The appeals court said that Payne detained Cottrell beyond the scope of the traffic stop without getting Cottrell’s valid consent and without a reasonable suspicion of a crime.
    Before they turn these police lose on the streets they need to teach them the Law.
    The court was right in this case.
    This is still a country of laws I think.

    • Thomas Noell

      Yes, we are a nation of laws, but what good are laws when police are denied the duty to enforce those laws. The defendant put himself in this situation by driving around without headlights (endangering other drivers) and bringing attention to himself by violating the noise ordinance. As the police were right to stop the driver for traffic violations, they surely discovered that he was a convicted felon when they ran his tags. With that said, they were right in searching his vehicle by probable cause (to which Cottrell actually consented) since the convicted felon was again breaking the law. Sadly, “progressive” forces do no see it this way and an armed, drug-dealing convicted felon is back on the streets to again endanger the public.

  • Thomas Noell

    Way to go, liberals…..more guns, drugs, and thugs on the street-all in the name of “civil liberties”. Too bad public safety enters no where into the equation when the subject was caught breaking the law. Well, if one dies at the hands of this law-breaker, the blood is on YOUR hands and not the NRA’s!

    • Chris

      Typical right wingers. Always picking and choosing which parts of the Constitution to obey. How come people scream about protecting their 2nd Amendment right, but are OK with an African American being illegally searched and seized? You can’t pick and choose which part of the Constitution to like and obey.

    • JBeck

      The fact of the matter is , this officer violated this mans rights and the officer knew it ! It is called “probable cause ” because this man was driving without his headlights on was the reason to stop him . That’s an infraction and can warrant a simple traffic ticket . The smell of cologne is NOT! Probable cause to search this mans vehicle! Since when was cologne a crime ? And the dogs ! Unless they are able to testify in court in which (I’ve never recalled one to be able to do that) they do what they are instructed to do which is a joke within itself . This officer was taught in training what probable cause was and he knew he was grasping for straws by doing what he done . So for once the system was fair and just in its ruling. Police are NOT above the law nor are they allowed to violate our constitutional rights as citizens of the United States ! End of story!

  • aquestion

    Chris….at what point in the article does it say ANYTHING at all about the defendant being an African American?????? Stick to the facts and argue the law, not what you THINK someone else did based on a trumped up idea of race.

  • aquestion

    Great….you have time to find out if someone is black or white so you can bring race into something that has absolutely no place. The fact is the courts made a ruling and ruled against what an Officer did. Again, how is that a race issue?

    • Chris

      How is this hard for you to understand? Fox 8 is not the only news site. His picture is on the other news site that showed up in my facebook newsfeed. It required, literally, zero searching. I saw it before I even commented. But hey, keep arguing about this instead of the actual issue at hand.

      • aquestion

        “The fact is the courts made a ruling and ruled against what an Officer did”. <———- issue. And what's your argument?

    • Chris

      Here’s my question again. I will take out the African part so I might actually get an answer.

      How come people scream about protecting their 2nd Amendment right, but are OK with an American being illegally searched and seized? You can’t pick and choose which part of the Constitution to like and obey.

  • chris

    Thats not the first time or the last time. WSPD Has being getting away with this for years. How many people you think done already to guilty pleas.

  • spirtirose79

    Reblogged this on hooligansoulrush and commented:
    This is so ironic, considering I do believe this same thing just happened to me a few days ago. I was on my way to summer school at Appalachian State, when I got pulled over for a minor traffic violation (expired registration). I was told to pull over into a parking lot, when soon after, another policeman and a dog came to my car. I was ordered to get out of the car, and both policeman and the dog searched all of my clothes, personal belongings, every aspect of the car, and even my food! They pulled all of my things out of the car as I sat and watched along the side of the street. I was questioned about drug usage and so forth. I do not do drugs, and there wasn’t anything in my car. The officers did not give me a reason for this search, they pretty much just ordered it.

  • dewey

    just one more time for those who don’t know, the Supreme C.U.N.T(Can’t Understand Normal Thinking), has already ruled that “smell” is not probable cause

Comments are closed.

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