Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. 12SL-CR03107-01. Honorable Michael T. Jamison.
Casey A. Taylor, Columbia, MO, for appellant.
Chris Koster, Todd T. Smith, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent.
Kurt S. Odenwald, P.J. concurs. Robert G. Dowd, Jr., concurs.
Gary M. Gaertner, Jr.,
Samuel Spires (Spires) appeals from the judgment and sentence upon his conviction following a jury trial of three counts of unlawful possession of a concealable firearm, Section 571.070, RSMo. (Cum. Supp, 2010), Spires argues the trial court erred in overruling his motion to suppress evidence and in admitting the firearms, because the officer did not have reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop the car Spires was in. We affirm.
Spires was charged as a prior offender with three counts of the class C felony of unlawful possession of a concealable firearm. He filed a motion to suppress the three firearms constituting the basis for the charges. He argued the seizure was incident to an unlawful warrantless search, in that it was conducted pursuant to an illegal traffic stop. At the pre-trial hearing on the motion to suppress, Officer Adam Lane testified that on the night of June 30, 2011, at approximately 11:40 P.M., he observed a vehicle driving in a
parking lot without its lights on in a high-crime area. He drove past the vehicle and observed a passenger in the backseat with a bandana, or similar type of cloth, covering the bottom half of his face. Based on his belief that the vehicle was required to have its headlights on and " the suspicious nature of the person having a bandana over his face at that time and place," Officer Lane conducted a traffic stop, which led to the discovery of the firearms. The trial court denied the motion to suppress the firearms, finding that while the traffic stop was not a legitimate stop because Missouri law does not require the use of headlights while operating a vehicle in a parking lot, Officer Lane had reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop based on the passenger's suspicious face covering. Defense counsel objected to the court's ruling.
The following facts were adduced at the trial, viewed in a light most favorable to the jury verdict. Officer Lane testified to his reasons for stopping the vehicle, which were the same as he testified to at the suppression hearing. He then testified that after he stopped the vehicle, the two backseat passengers fled. When he approached the vehicle, he observed through the window three long firearms lying in the backseat area and a pistol in the center console area. He seized the firearms, noting they were loaded. The firearms, identified as a Marlin .22 rifle, a Remington 870 express pump action shotgun, and a Mossberg 12-guage shotgun, were entered into evidence. Defense counsel stated there was " no objection" to the admission of all three firearms. However, before the court received evidence about the functionality of the firearms, defense counsel renewed her objection to the firearms on the same basis as her motion to suppress. The court confirmed that the objection was to the firearms, stated the parties had already discussed the objection, and noted that defense counsel " had a continuing objection." Firearms expert William George testified that all three firearms were operational.
The jury found Spires guilty on all three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced him to six years of imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections on each charge, to be served concurrently. Spires filed a motion for a new trial, asserting, as relevant for this appeal, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to ...