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State v. Carrawell

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

February 10, 2015


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Steven R. Ohmer



Appellant Derrick Carrawell ("Carrawell") appeals the judgment of the trial court entered upon a jury verdict finding Carrawell guilty of one count of the class C felony of possession of a controlled substance. The trial court sentenced Carrawell as a prior and persistent drug offender to 12 years' imprisonment. On appeal, Carrawell argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence of a shopping bag containing heroin seized from him by police. Because the officers searched the shopping bag incident to Carrawell's lawful arrest, the trial court properly admitted the contents of the bag into evidence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Factual and Procedural History

On April 9, 2012, police officer Curtis Burgdorf ("Officer Burgdorf") and three other officers were patrolling a neighborhood. As the officers were speaking to residents about increased gang and narcotic activity in the area, Officer Burgdorf observed a vehicle pull up nearby and park. The vehicle caught Officer Burgdorf's attention because the vehicle did not immediately park next to the curb, but instead, stayed in the traffic lane for about 30 seconds, with the driver staring in the officers' direction. The driver was later identified as Carrawell. Officer Burgdorf observed Carrawell exit the vehicle, at which point he stared at Officer Burgdorf, grabbed his crotch, spit in the officers' direction, and said "what the f--k are you looking at, bitch?"

At this time, there were several other people in the officers' vicinity, including three individuals the officers had been speaking to, one of whom had his seven-year-old daughter with him, and two or three other female individuals. Each of these individuals were on the same side of the street as Officer Burgdorf. Four or five other individuals were standing on the side of the street where Carrawell had parked his vehicle.

Carrawell walked to the passenger side of his vehicle and retrieved a white plastic bag. Carrawell continued to use profanities toward the officers, staring at Officer Burgdorf and saying things such as, "motherf--cking police." Officer Burgdorf testified that everyone in the vicinity was taken aback by the way in which Carrawell was speaking to the officers. The father of the seven-year-old girl covered his daughter's ears as Carrawell continued to shout profanities toward the officers.

As Officer Burgdorf crossed the street toward Carrawell, Carrawell began walking away toward an apartment complex while saying "what the f--k are you going to do?" At that point, Officer Burgdorf advised Carrawell that he was under arrest for peace disturbance and ordered him to stop. Carrawell continued walking, passing through a gate that surrounded the apartment complex. Carrawell asked his daughter to close the gate behind him, which she did not do. Officer Burgdorf followed Carrawell through the open gate and again advised him to stop and that he was under arrest. Carrawell again refused to cooperate and continued to walk toward the apartment entrance. As Carrawell opened the door to the apartment building, Officer Burgdorf grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away from the door. Carrawell pulled away from Officer Burgdorf, attempting to break his grasp, but Officer Burgdorf was able to push Carrawell up against a wall.

The other officers were able to reach through the gate and assist Officer Burgdorf in securing Carrawell and handcuffing him. During this time, Officer Burgdorf advised Carrawell several times to drop the bag, and Carrawell refused. Carrawell continued to hold onto the bag with his right hand even after his left arm had been placed in handcuffs. Officer Burgdorf's intention was to place both of Carrawell's hands in handcuffs, but he was unable to do so because Carrawell continued to hold onto the bag, ignoring Officer's Burgdorf's requests to drop it. Officer Burgdorf was ultimately able to place Carrawell's right arm in handcuffs and complete the handcuffing process after he had "forcefully removed" the bag from Carrawell's hand. The bag fell to the ground and made a breaking sound. Officer Burgdorf retrieved the bag and the officers escorted Carrawell to the police car. Carrawell continued to scream profanities throughout the arrest, and, after being informed of his Miranda rights, told Officer Burgdorf "Good job. You got yourself a big-time heroin dealer." Once Carrawell was secured in the police car, Officer Burgdorf opened the bag. Officer Burgdorf testified that he did not know what was in the bag prior to opening it, and that he opened the bag because it may have contained a weapon. He testified that it was also department policy to inventory an arrested person's property. Officer Burgdorf discovered a broken ceramic plate and a tan powdered substance inside the bag. Subsequent crime lab testing confirmed the tan powder to be heroin.

Carrawell was charged in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis with felony drug possession. Prior to trial, Carrawell filed a motion to suppress the physical evidence seized from him during his arrest, as well as any testimony concerning that evidence. In support of the motion, Carrawell alleged that "[t]he search was unlawful in that it was conducted without a warrant, without probable cause and was not within the scope of any exception to the warrant requirement." Carrawell further alleged that no consent was given to the search conducted by the officers, and that the search and seizure were not incident to a lawful arrest. The trial court considered Carrawell's motion to suppress on July 1, 2013. After hearing testimony from Officer Burgdorf and arguments from each party, the trial court denied the motion. The trial court reasoned that Carrawell had abandoned the bag, and that even if he did not intend to do so, the bag would have nevertheless been searched during the inventory process. At that time, counsel for Carrawell offered a continuing objection with respect to the motion to suppress. The trial court stated that "[t]he motion to suppress objection will be continuing and for the record it's preserved for any appeal."

The trial court commenced a jury trial on July 1, 2013, during which the State presented the testimony of Officer Burgdorf and the other two officers who arrested Carrawell. The State also introduced the physical evidence seized from Carrawell in connection with his arrest. During the trial, the trial court took it upon itself to note, and overrule, Carrawell's continuing objection each time the State offered exhibits constituting the seized evidence into evidence. At the close of the evidence, the parties stipulated that Carrawell was a prior and persistent drug offender. On July 2, 2013, the jury entered a verdict finding Carrawell guilty of felony drug possession.

After trial, Carrawell filed a motion for new trial in which he claimed, inter alia, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress and in overruling his objections to the related exhibits introduced at trial. In support of his motion, Carrawell alleged that the officers lacked probable cause for the warrantless search of the bag because the bag was not within Carrawell's wingspan and thus was not subject to a search incident to arrest. Carrawell also alleged that the trial court's failure to sustain his motion to suppress violated his 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Carrawell was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment by the trial court at a sentencing hearing on August 23, 2013. The trial court also denied Carrawell's motion for ...

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