(a) Upon granting a motion to suppress evidence the judge must order that the evidence in question be excluded in the criminal action pending against the defendant. When the order is based upon the ground of an unlawful search and seizure and excludes tangible property unlawfully taken from the defendant's possession, and when the property is not contraband or otherwise subject to lawful retention by the State or another, the judge must order that the property be restored to the defendant at the conclusion of the trial including all appeals.
(b) An order finally denying a motion to suppress evidence may be reviewed upon an appeal from a judgment of conviction, including a judgment entered upon a plea of guilty.
(c) An order by the superior court granting a motion to suppress prior to trial is appealable to the appellate division of the General Court of Justice prior to trial upon certificate by the prosecutor to the judge who granted the motion that the appeal is not taken for the purpose of delay and that the evidence is essential to the case. The appeal is to the appellate court that would have jurisdiction if the defendant were found guilty of the charge and received the maximum punishment. If there are multiple charges affected by a motion to suppress, the ruling is appealable to the court with jurisdiction over the offense carrying the highest punishment.
(d) A motion to suppress evidence made pursuant to this Article is the exclusive method of challenging the admissibility of evidence upon the grounds specified in G.S. 15A-974. (1973, c. 1286, s. 1; 1975, c. 166, s. 27; 1979, c. 723.)