Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Lincoln County Honorable James D.
S. ODENWALD JUDGE.
D. Harris ("Harris") appeals his conviction
following a bench trial of the class B misdemeanor of driving
while intoxicated. In his sole point on appeal, Harris argues
the trial court erred in overruling his motion to suppress
his statement that he had "a couple" or "a
few" drinks because the statement was elicited without a
Miranda warning. Because Harris was not in custody for
purposes of Miranda, we deny the point. Accordingly,
we affirm the trial court's judgment.
and Procedural History
Trooper Nathan Cockrum ("Trooper Cockrum") arrived
at the scene of a motor vehicle accident and saw a truck
overturned. Harris was inside the truck, pinned upside down
with his legs twisted behind the steering wheel. The
truck's fuel line was ruptured and leaking into the cab.
Trooper Cockrum retrieved his first aid kit and approached
the vehicle to provide emergency assistance. Trooper Cockrum
crawled underneath the truck to make contact with Harris, who
exhibited labored breathing and unintelligible speech.
Trooper Cockrum attempted to keep Harris calm as he observed
him for injuries and also sought to keep bystanders away from
the truck due to the gas fumes.
thereafter, other first-responders arrived. Firefighters
extracted Harris from the truck, then paramedics strapped him
to a backboard. Trooper Cockrum smelled alcohol on
Harris's breath as he helped paramedics carry Harris on
the backboard to the awaiting ambulance.
Harris was restrained inside the ambulance, Harris provided
Trooper Cockrum with his name, address, and medical
condition, and told Trooper Cockrum what had happened in the
accident. Harris also spoke with the paramedics about his
health and what occurred in the accident. Trooper Cockrum
noted that Harris understood the questions, did not have much
difficulty answering them, and gave coherent, appropriate
responses. Harris was cooperative and thanked Trooper Cockrum
for his service. Trooper Cockrum recognized a strong odor of
alcohol while speaking with Harris and further noted
Harris's eyes were watery and his speech was slurred.
Trooper Cockrum had also observed a number of beer cans near
the crash site, including some cans that were still cold to
the touch. Trooper Cockrum asked Harris how much he had to
drink, and Harris answered "a few" or "a
couple." Trooper Cockrum testified that he did not give
Harris a Miranda warning before asking him how much
he had to drink because Harris was not under arrest at that
time. Trooper Cockrum also indicated in response to a
hypothetical that even if Harris had not been strapped inside
a moving ambulance, he would have preferred Harris stay and
answer his questions.
Cockrum then requested Harris submit to a preliminary breath
test. Harris consented to the breath test, which tested
positive for alcohol consumption. Subsequently, Trooper
Cockrum placed Harris under arrest based on his observations
of Harris, the odor of alcohol on Harris's breath,
Harris's breath test, and Harris's statement that he
had "a few" or "a couple" drinks. Trooper
Cockrum read Harris Missouri's implied consent law, and
Harris consented to a blood draw by a paramedic, which
recorded a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.
Harris was taken to a hospital for further medical treatment.
State charged Harris with driving while intoxicated. Prior to
trial, Harris moved to suppress his statement that he had
"a few" or "a couple" drinks based on
Trooper Cockrum's failure to provide Harris a
Miranda warning before asking Harris whether he had
been drinking. The trial court held a hearing on Harris's
suppression motion. At the hearing, the State countered that
an officer may detain a person and conduct an initial
investigation as to whether he or she was driving while
intoxicated before a Miranda warning is required.
The trial court overruled Harris's motion to suppress,
holding that no Miranda warning was necessary
because Trooper Cockrum was permitted to ask preliminary
investigative questions without issuing a Miranda
warning in a routine traffic stop.
case proceeded to a bench trial. The trial court found Harris
guilty of the class B misdemeanor of driving while
intoxicated. The trial court then sentenced Harris to thirty
days in jail. Harris now appeals.
sole point on appeal, Harris argues the trial court erred in
denying his motion to suppress and objection to his statement
that he had "a couple" or "a few" drinks
because the statement should have been suppressed as the
product of a custodial interrogation without a