In The Court of Appeals

The State,        Respondent,


Linda Wolfe Gwinn,        Appellant.

Appeal From Greenville County
Joseph J. Watson, Circuit Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion 2003-UP-687
Submitted September 17, 2003 – Submitted November 24, 2003


Michael W. Barcroft, of Greenville, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Charles H. Richardson, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Harold M. Coombs, Jr., all of Columbia, and Robert M. Ariail, of Greenville, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Linda Wolfe Gwinn appeals her conviction and sentence for possession of crack cocaine, arguing the evidence was seized as the result of an unlawful traffic stop.  We affirm. [1]


Greenville County Sheriff’s Deputy Tad Clardy was patrolling a high-drug area when he witnessed two cars commit traffic violations when turning onto Worley Road.  Gwinn made a wide right-hand turn crossing the double yellow line of Worley Road.  Rather than stop Gwinn immediately, the officer chose to pursue the other vehicle because its driver committed a more serious violation.  That vehicle took off at a high rate of speed after turning onto Worley Road and crossed the double yellow line near a dangerous curve.  When he lost visual contact with the other vehicle, Clardy immediately turned his attention to Gwinn’s vehicle.  Clardy testified several minutes passed between the time he first saw Gwinn cross the double yellow line and when he stopped her. 

When Clardy stopped Gwinn, he intended to write her a ticket for crossing the double yellow line.  During the stop, Clardy noticed Gwinn was nervous, jerky, and fidgety.  Because of her behavior, Clardy became concerned about his own safety and asked Gwinn if she had any weapons.  Gwinn produced a pair of scissors and continued to act strangely, repeatedly reaching inside the car despite Clardy’s instructions to the contrary.  Clardy instructed Gwinn to step out of the car and then to the rear of the car when she continued to reach inside the vehicle.  Another officer who had arrived on the scene observed Gwinn drop a white rocklike substance in her floorboard.  The substance was .09 grams of crack cocaine.  After her arrest, Gwinn dropped a piece of foil containing crack cocaine residue onto the seat of the patrol car.  


Gwinn argues the drugs should have been suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful traffic stop.  She contends the stop was arbitrary and unreasonable.  Specifically, she asserts the officer lacked authority to make the stop because he did not do so immediately after the violation as required by S.C. Code Ann. § 17-13-30 (2003).

Section 17-13-30 permits any sheriff or deputy sheriff to make a warrantless arrest of anyone who violates a criminal law of this state in the officer’s view if the arrest is made at the time of the violation “or immediately thereafter.” 

It is a general rule that once an officer has the right to arrest without a warrant for a misdemeanor or breach of the peace committed in his presence he must do so as soon as he reasonably can, and if he delays for purposes disassociated with the arrest or for such a length of time as to necessarily indicate the interposition of other purposes, he cannot arrest without a warrant.

H.D. Warren, Annotation, Peace Officer’s Delay in Making Arrest Without a Warrant for Misdemeanor or Breach of Peace, 58 A.L.R.2d 1056, 1056-57 (1958).

Additionally, an officer may make a warrantless arrest for a violation occurring outside the officer’s presence where the facts and circumstances observed by the officer give him reason to believe a crime was freshly committed.  See State v. Martin, 275 S.C. 141, 145-46, 268 S.E.2d 105, 107 (1980).  Clardy’s brief delay before stopping Gwinn was proper under the circumstances because he was pursuing another person who committed a more serious violation at virtually the same location and at almost the exact time of Gwinn’s violation.  He delayed his stop of Gwinn only for public safety purposes and stopped Gwinn within a reasonable amount of time after he saw her violate the law.


HUFF, STILWELL, and BEATTY, JJ., concur.

[1]        We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.