Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF ST. CLAIR COUNTY Honorable Debra A.
State appeals the suppression of statements George Owen
Harper ("Defendant") made to a deputy sheriff who
stopped Defendant's vehicle to question him about
potential criminal activity. The State claims the suppression
(based on the trial court's conclusion that a
Miranda violation had
occurred) was erroneous because Defendant was not in custody
at the time of the questioning. Finding merit in that claim,
we reverse the trial court's order suppressing
Defendant's statements and remand the matter for further
proceedings on the State's misdemeanor charges of
unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of third-degree
assault. See sections 571.030.1 and
Principles of Review and Governing Law
"will reverse a trial court's ruling on a motion to
suppress only if it is clearly erroneous." State v.
Holman, 502 S.W.3d 621, 624 (Mo. banc 2016). "This
Court reviews a trial court's ruling on a motion to
suppress in the light most favorable to the ruling and defers
to the trial court's determinations of credibility. The
inquiry is limited to a determination of whether the trial
court's decision is supported by substantial
evidence." State v. Stover, 388 S.W.3d 138, 155
(Mo. banc 2012) (citation omitted). We owe no deference to
the trial court on its legal conclusions, which we review
de novo. State v. Gaw, 285 S.W.3d 318, 319
(Mo. banc 2009).
courts analyze issues regarding the privilege against
self-incrimination claimed under the Missouri Constitution in
a manner consistent with analysis of those arising under the
federal constitution." State v. Brooks, 185
S.W.3d 265, 273 (Mo. App. W.D. 2006). "Miranda
warnings are not required every time the police question an
individual." State v. Glass, 136 S.W.3d 496,
510 (Mo. banc 2004). Because "[a] criminal suspect is
entitled to Miranda warnings once the suspect is
subjected to a custodial interrogation[, ]"
Stover, 388 S.W.3d at 155, "[s]tatements
obtained during a custodial interrogation not preceded by
Miranda warnings are subject to suppression at
trial." Id. at 155. "[T]he U.S. Supreme
Court has determined that the 'in custody'
determination is to be reviewed as a matter of law."
State v. Brooks, 185 S.W.3d 265, 274 (Mo. App. W.D.
2006) (citing Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99,
"In Missouri, 'custodial interrogation' is
defined as questioning initiated by law enforcement officers
after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise
deprived of his freedom of action in any significant
way." Glass, 136 S.W.3d at 511. "That the
dictates of Miranda do not apply in the context of a
valid 'Terry stop' was established in
Berkemer, where the Court held that 'persons
temporarily detained pursuant to [Terry] stops are
not "in custody" for the purposes of
Miranda.'" State v. Tally, 153
S.W.3d 888, 896 (Mo. App. S.D. 2005) (quoting Berkemer v.
McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 440 (1984)); see also Terry
v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22 (1968). Thus, depending upon
events following such a temporary detention, "a valid
Terry stop may evolve into a custodial setting in
which the dictates of Miranda will apply."
Tally, 153 S.W.3d at 896.
and Procedural History
Clair County Sheriff's Corporal Alec Lawson
("Corporal Lawson") was the only witness at the
July 2016 suppression hearing, and he provided the following
testimony. After dark on the evening of February 1, 2016,
while acting as a patrol supervisor, Corporal Lawson
activated the emergency lights on his vehicle to stop a truck
Defendant was operating on Highway 82. Corporal Lawson made the stop because his
dispatcher had announced that someone named Lois Lyke had
called to report that Defendant "had fired a weapon at
her on Northeast 450 Road. And, as she was leaving that area,
[Defendant] was following her down the roadway." It was
Corporal Lawson's understanding that Ms. Lyke had
indicated that she "had stopped at Osceola Cheese and
the suspect vehicle was headed southbound on 13
Highway." The suspect vehicle was described as "a
dark or black-colored Ford truck, kind of two tone with a
Lawson knew Defendant "prior to this incident[, ]"
but he "did no independent investigation" into the
information provided by the dispatcher. Instead, he responded
to the reported area, where he saw a truck matching the
description given by Ms. Lyke. The truck was "traveling
southbound, taking the exit ramp onto 82 Highway." When
Corporal Lawson tried "to confirm" the license
plate number on the truck, it "came back not on
Corporal Lawson activated his lights, Defendant drove his
vehicle into a parking lot and stopped. Corporal Lawson did
not "stop [the vehicle] for any kind of traffic
violation"; rather, he wanted to talk to Defendant about
"[t]he allegations that Mrs. [sic] Lyke had called in to
the sheriff's office."
Lawson approached the vehicle and recognized Defendant as the
driver. Defendant "remain[ed] seated in [his] vehicle
the entire time[.]" Corporal Lawson did not tell
Defendant that he was under arrest at any point during the
encounter. Corporal Lawson did not tell Defendant that he had
the right to refuse to answer questions and the right to
request an attorney. After Defendant provided Corporal Lawson
with "a statement . . . about the allegations[, ]"
Defendant was allowed to leave. The entire encounter lasted
"[a]pproximately five to seven minutes."
month later, the State filed a misdemeanor information
charging Defendant with unlawful use of a weapon by knowingly
shooting "a firearm across a highway" and two
counts of third degree assault by purposely placing Ms. Lyke
and another woman "in apprehension of immediate physical
injury by standing at the end of the driveway and shooting a
firearm into the road after [each woman] drove by him."
Defendant moved to suppress "all evidence arising out of
[his] unlawful detention and unlawful arrest[.]"
conclusion of the suppression hearing, defense counsel argued
that there were two issues; first, whether "it takes
more than a . . . dispatch call to justify the stopping, the
detention of a member of the public who is violating no other
law"; and, second, whether an officer investigating a
crime has "any obligation to provide [the individual
being questioned with] Miranda warnings" given that
"custody is a multifaceted thing." The trial court
correctly indicated at the end of the suppression hearing
that the legal issue to be decided was "whether there
was an obligation to Mirandize . . . . given the facts of the
. . . stop." The trial court