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Trapani v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

February 14, 2017

VINCENT M. TRAPANI, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, et al., Respondents.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri The Honorable Jon E. Beetem, Judge

          Before: Karen King Mitchell, Presiding Judge, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge

          Gary D Witt, Judge

         Vincent M. Trapani ("Trapani") appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Cole County denying his Petition for Expungement of Arrest Records ("Expungement Petition"). Trapani's arrest arose out of the shooting of his brother Anthony Trapani ("Anthony")[1] on December 17, 2011. The court heard the case and denied Trapani's request for expungement as the court found that Trapani failed to meet the statutory requirements for expungement with respect to both his arrest for first-degree domestic assault and unlawful use of a weapon. We affirm.

         Factual Background

         In July of 2014, Trapani filed his Expungement Petition pursuant to section 610.122,[2] seeking the expungement of all records related to his arrest on December 17, 2011. Trapani's arrest arose out of a shooting incident at the home he shared with his brother Anthony and Anthony's wife, Shay Trapani ("Shay"). On December 17, 2011 at approximately 1:00 a.m., law enforcement officers were called to the residence. At the residence, Anthony was found with a bullet wound to his left hand and abdomen. Anthony had been shot once with the bullet travelling through his left hand and his abdomen and then exiting his back.

         During their investigation, officers learned that both Shay and Trapani were present at the time of the shooting. A detective overheard Trapani state several times that the shooting was an accident and tell family members that Anthony accidentally shot himself.

         Shay told law enforcement that prior to the incident all three had been at a tavern drinking alcohol. She also stated that she did not see the shooting but overheard part of the conversation between Trapani and Anthony immediately prior to the shooting. Anthony wanted to show Trapani his gun. She heard Anthony tell Trapani that he had removed the magazine from the gun, and Trapani asked Anthony whether the gun would go off if he pulled the trigger. Shay then heard the gun discharge.

         Law enforcement spoke to Trapani shortly after their arrival. Trapani smelled of alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot. A search warrant to obtain evidence of Trapani's blood alcohol content was sought and issued. Three hours after the shooting, Trapani had a blood alcohol content of 0.063.

         Trapani was arrested for domestic assault in the first degree and unlawful use of a weapon. Trapani was eventually charged with domestic assault in the second degree, but the charge was later dismissed by the State and never went to trial.

         The State opposed Trapani's Expungement Petition, arguing that Trapani's arrest was not based on false information and that there was probable cause at the time of the expungement action to believe that Trapani committed the offenses for which he was arrested. The trial court denied Trapani's Expungement Petition. Regarding his arrest for first-degree domestic assault, the court found Trapani failed to prove both that (a) his arrest was based on false information and (b) there was no probable cause at the time of the expungement action to believe that Trapani committed the offense. Regarding his arrest for unlawful use of a weapon, the trial court found that Trapani failed to show that there was no probable cause at the time of the expungement action to believe he committed the offense. This appeal follows. Additional facts will be included in the analysis section below as necessary.

         Standard of Review

In reviewing court-tried cases, we affirm the judgment unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Adum v. St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dep't, 423 S.W.3d 327, 328 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014). The trial court's application of statutory requirements is a question of law rather than fact; therefore, we review the trial court's application of statutory requirements de novo. Sutton v. Municipal Court Division, Des Peres, 462 S.W.3d 446, 448– 49 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015). Additionally, the credibility of the witnesses is for the determination of the trial court, which is free to believe none, part, or all of the testimony. Maserang v. Crawford County Sheriff's Dep't, 211 S.W.3d 118, 121 (Mo. App. S.D. 2006). We defer to the trial court's determination of the witnesses' credibility. Id.

Doe v. Mo. State Hwy. Patrol Criminal Records Repository, 474 S.W.3d 171, 174 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015).

         Analysis

         Point One

         In Point One on appeal, Trapani argues the trial court erred in denying his Expungement Petition for his arrest for domestic assault in the first degree because the trial court erroneously applied the law because the evidence established that (a) Trapani's arrest for domestic assault in the first degree was based on false information; (b) there was not probable cause at the time of the expungement action to believe that he committed the offense of domestic assault in the first degree; and (c) Trapani was innocent of the offense.

         Section 610.122 provides, in relevant part, that a record of arrest may be expunged if the following criteria are satisfied:

1. Notwithstanding other provisions of law to the contrary, any record of arrest recorded pursuant to section 43.503 may be expunged if:
(1) The court determines that the arrest was based on false information and the following conditions ...

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