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State v. Hughes

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

October 24, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
EDWARD HUGHES, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Jimmie M. Edwards

          Philip M. Hess, Judge.

         Introduction

         Edward Hughes was found guilty in a court-tried case in the circuit court of the City of St. Louis of two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of unlawful use of drug paraphernalia arising out of a search of Hughes's person and his drawstring bag that was next to him in the backseat of a car before he got out, was arrested and handcuffed. In his sole point on appeal, Hughes argues the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his bag because he had already been handcuffed and the bag was outside of his control. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 9, 2015, Hughes was the sole passenger in the back of a vehicle stopped by police for a traffic violation. Officers Ryan Murphy and Tom Jeffries approached the vehicle and obtained identifying information from the three occupants. The officers ran a search of the occupants' names and discovered the driver did not have a license and there was a warrant out for Hughes. The officers approached Hughes and asked him to step out of the vehicle. He complied. Officer Murphy handcuffed Hughes and placed him under arrest. Officer Murphy then searched Hughes and found drugs in his pants pocket. Hughes was standing between the officers and the vehicle he stepped out of. The officers saw a Nike drawstring bag was directly next to where Hughes was sitting before he was arrested. Officer Murphy asked Hughes if it was his bag; he responded it was. Officer Jeffries then retrieved the bag from the vehicle and searched it in front of Officer Murphy and Hughes and found drugs and drug paraphernalia. Hughes was taken into custody and the other two passengers were allowed to leave.

         Hughes was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, specifically heroin and cocaine base, and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia. Hughes filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of the bag. The trial court took the motion with the case and denied it after hearing all of the evidence. The court found Hughes guilty of all charges and sentenced him to concurrent terms of seven years' imprisonment for the possession of controlled substance charges and thirty days' for the unlawful use of drug paraphernalia charge. This appeal follows.

         Standard of Review

         On direct appeal, we review for prejudice, not mere error, and will reverse only if the error was so prejudicial that it deprived the defendant of a fair trial. State v. Marrow, 968 S.W.2d 100, 106 (Mo.banc 1998). We review the facts in the light most favorable to the verdict. Id.

         We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress in the light most favorable to the ruling. State v. Schroeder, 330 S.W.3d 468, 472 (Mo.banc 2011). We defer to the trial court's determinations of credibility. Id. The inquiry is limited to determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Id. We will reverse only if the trial court's decision is clearly erroneous. State v. Oliver, 293 S.W.3d 437, 442 (Mo.banc 2009).

         Analysis

         Hughes contends the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the warrantless search of his Nike drawstring bag. Relying on the Missouri Supreme Court decision issued January 12, 2016, State v. Carrawell, 481 S.W.3d 833 (Mo. banc 2016), Hughes asserts the search of his bag was unlawful because it was not within his immediate control when searched. The State avers that Carrawell is factually distinguishable because Hughes was not secured in the police car before the search and the bag was within Hughes's reach, that the search was proper, and that even if the search was unlawful pursuant to Carrawell's precedent moving forward, the trial court did not abuse its discretion because Carrawell only applies to searches made after that decision was issued and the search here occurred before it. Based upon the State's final argument, we find the trial court did not err in admitting the evidence obtained from the search of the drawstring bag.

         The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be free from "unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV. Evidence discovered in violation of the Fourth Amendment must be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree. Oliver, 293 S.W.3d at 442. Whether conduct violates the Fourth Amendment is an issue of law we review de novo. Schroeder, 330 S.W.3d at 472.

         In Carrawell, the defendant parked his vehicle across the street from an apartment building where police officers were speaking with residents outside. As the defendant stepped out of his vehicle he stared at one of the officers, grabbed his crotch, spit in the officers' direction, and said, "What the fuck are you looking at, bitch?" The defendant removed a white plastic grocery bag from the car and continued to utter vulgarities towards the officers. An officer approached the defendant and notified him that he was under arrest for peace disturbance. The defendant walked away from the officer and attempted to open an apartment door but the officer grabbed ahold of him. A struggle ensued as the officer attempted to handcuff the defendant and repeatedly asked him to drop the bag. Eventually the officer was able to rip the bag from the defendant's hands and it fell to the ground, producing ...


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