Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis
1422-CR00291-01 Honorable Mark H. Neill
P. Page, Judge
a bench trial, Jason McDowell ("Defendant") now
appeals the trial court's judgment finding Defendant
guilty of possession of marijuana with the intent to
distribute, in violation of Section 195.211,  possession of
methamphetamine, in violation of Section 195.202, and
unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, in violation of Section
195.233. The judgment of conviction is affirmed.
January 23, 2014, an employee ("Housekeeper") of
Red Roof Inn was conducting routine housekeeping functions in
various hotel rooms. Upon entering Room 214, the Housekeeper
encountered a "white substance" and
"pipes" on the counter; at the time the Housekeeper
entered Room 214, no individual was discovered therein. The
Housekeeper immediately exited Room 214 and proceeded to
inform the management of Red Roof Inn of his observations.
The management of Red Roof Inn instructed Housekeeper to
return to Room 214 to photograph the scene. Thereafter, Room
214 was placed on lockdown so as to prevent entry.
9:00 P.M. that same evening, Defendant-the lodger of Room
214- returned to Red Roof Inn. Upon recognizing Defendant, an
employee of the Red Roof Inn contacted Officer Scott Gruswitz
("Officer Gruswitz") of the Saint Louis
Metropolitan Police Department ("SLMPD"), who,
fortuitously, was parked in the parking lot of the Red Roof
Inn while on patrol. Officer Gruswitz was informed of
Housekeeper's earlier discoveries in Room 214. Officer
Gruswitz was also provided the paperwork Defendant completed
upon renting Room 214, which revealed Defendant was driving a
silver Chevy Impala.
reviewing this paperwork, Officer Gruswitz entered the
relevant information through certain databases so as to
determine the status of Defendant. As a result of these
searches, Officer Gruswitz learned Defendant's California
driver's license had been suspended or revoked and
Defendant' vehicle was not registered. Shortly
thereafter, Officer Gruswitz approached Defendant in the
lobby of the Red Roof Inn and requested identification;
Defendant provided Officer Gruswitz with a California
Gruswitz placed Defendant under arrest for driving while his
license was suspended or revoked. Defendant was searched,
incident to arrest, wherein a scale with drug residue was
discovered in Defendant's pocket. Officer Gruswitz, in
accordance with his training and experience, ordered
Defendant's automobile to be impounded because Defendant
was placed under arrest, the automobile was unregistered, and
Officer Gruswitz was unable to determine the identity of a
third-party to remove the automobile from the Red Roof Inn
parking lot. An inventory of the Defendant's automobile
ensued; during that inventory search, marijuana was
discovered in the trunk of the automobile.
the expiration of Defendant's lease of Room 214 the
following day, Officer Gruswitz was granted access by the
employees of the Red Roof Inn to examine said room. Officer
Gruswitz discovered drug paraphernalia, currency, and
methamphetamine during his access to Room 214.
was thereafter charged with one count of possession of
marijuana with the intent to distribute, in violation of
Section 195.211 ("Count I"), one count of
possession of methamphetamine, in violation of Section
195.202 ("Count II"), and one count of unlawful use
of drug paraphernalia, in violation of Section 195.233
("Count III"). The trial court denied
Defendant's motions to suppress and motions for judgment
of acquittal. After a bench trial, Defendant was found guilty
as charged and subsequently sentenced.
submits four points on appeal. In his first and second points
on appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred in
denying his motions for judgment of acquittal because the
evidence was insufficient to support Defendant's
convictions of Count I and Count II. Defendant argues the
State failed to meet its burden of proving the substances
that were discovered in his automobile and hotel room were,
in fact, marijuana and methamphetamine.
third and fourth points on appeal, Defendant claims the trial
court erred in overruling his motions to suppress evidence
relating the warrantless searches of his automobile and hotel
elect to address Defendant's Points III and IV before
returning to Points I and II.
III & IV
Points III and IV of his appeal, Defendant contends the trial
court erred in denying his motions to suppress evidence
discovered by law enforcement during the warrantless searches
of his automobile and hotel room, respectively.
review of denial of a motion to suppress, this court
determines if there was substantial evidence to support the
decision and will only reverse if the trial court's
ruling was clearly erroneous. State v. Nylon, 311
S.W.3d 869, 884 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010); see also State v.
Martin, 79 S.W.3d 912, 915 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002)
("We will reverse the trial court's ruling only if
it is clearly erroneous; that is, if we are left with a
definite and firm belief that a mistake has been
made."). In reviewing the trial court's ruling on a
motion to suppress, the facts and any reasonable inferences
arising therefrom are viewed in the light most favorable to
the ruling of the trial court. State v. Taber, 73
S.W.3d 699, 703 (Mo. App. W.D. 2002). Accordingly, this court
defers to the trial court's factual findings and
credibility determinations. State v. Nebbitt, 455
S.W.3d 79, 85 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014). "However, we review
questions of law, including whether conduct violates the
Fourth Amendment, de novo." Nylon, 311
S.W.3d at 884.
forth in the Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution, "[t]he right of people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated[.]" U.S. Const. amend IV; see also Mo.
Const. art. I, § 15; State v. Ramires, 152
S.W.3d 385, 391 (Mo. App. W.D. 2004) ("The Fourth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, enforceable against the
states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, guarantees the right of the people to be secure
from unreasonable searches and seizures."); State v.
Lee, 498 S.W.3d 442, 448 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016)
("Missouri's constitutional guarantee against
unreasonable searches and seizures is co-extensive with that
of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as
applied to the states through the Fourteenth
It is a
cardinal principle of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that
warrantless searches are prima facie unreasonable,
subject only to a few specifically established and
well-delineated exceptions. State v. Humble, 474
S.W.3d 210, 215 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015); State v.
Williams, 654 S.W.2d 238, 241 (Mo. App. S.D. 1983). If
an applicable exception is invoked, the burden rests upon the
State to vindicate the failure to procure a warrant.
Williams, 654 S.W.2d at 241.
Impoundment of Defendant's Automobile was ...