North Carolina Law Review

University of North Carolina School of Law

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Judged by the Sum of Our Actions? The Relevance of Non-Party Behavior inState v.Mello

March 29, 2012

90 N.C. L. Rev. Addendum 39 (2011)


In the abstract, the totality test may seem to present vague commands to a court. However, in Mello, the presence of the basic elements of the test-flight and a high-crime area-gave the officer a basis for reasonable suspicion, which led to an investigatory stop. But, when neither element is directly attributable to the defendant, as in this case, is the suspicion actually reasonable?


North Carolina courts answered this question in the affirmative. The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's conviction of Mello, and the Supreme Court of North Carolina affirmed without published opinion. This Recent Development argues that the appellate court properly decided Mello and, in so doing, correctly concluded that the behavior of associated non-parties is within the scope of the totality of the circumstances test for reasonable suspicion. The totality test is an incremental yet cumulative inquiry, where a court should consider all of the facts that compose a potential criminal transaction. Extracting some facts- such as the behavior of a non-party from the rest of the scene-distorts reality and contravenes the interests ofjustice. 



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