The three-judge panel determined the 2009 dismissal of Trooper Thomas Wetherington did not match the level of his offense.
Wetherington initially told his immediate supervisor his hat blew off on a windy day during a traffic stop in Craven County along the coast. But court documents say the hat was returned a few weeks later in good condition by one of the people he had pulled over the day he lost it.
The Highway Patrol determined he violated its truthfulness policy. The state can appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.