Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PULASKI COUNTY Honorable John D.
State ("Prosecutor") appeals from an order quashing
a search warrant and suppressing evidence in a prosecution
for first-degree domestic assault, second-degree endangering
the welfare of a child, and abuse or neglect of a child.
See sections 565.072, 568.050 and 568.060. In two
points, Prosecutor claims the search warrant adequately
described the item to be seized, and, even if it did not, the
good-faith exception to exclusion should apply. Because the
search warrant was valid on its face, we reverse the trial
court's order and need not reach Prosecutor's second
of Review and Applicable Law
reverse a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress
only if it is clearly erroneous. State v. McNeely,
358 S.W.3d 65, 68 (Mo. banc 2012).
Any ruling "on a motion to suppress must be supported by
substantial evidence." State v. Johnson, 354
S.W.3d 627, 631 (Mo. banc 2011). This Court reviews the facts
and reasonable inferences therefrom favorably to the circuit
court's ruling and disregards contrary evidence and
inferences. Id. at 631-32. Whether a search is
"permissible and whether the exclusionary rule applies
to the evidence seized" are questions of law reviewed
de novo. Id. at 632.
State v. Douglass, 544 S.W.3d 182, 189 (Mo. banc
Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures
against 'unreasonable searches and seizures' and
provides that 'no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable
cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place to be searched, and the persons or
things to be seized.'" Id. at 189 (quoting
U.S. Const. amend. IV). A search warrant is invalid if it is
not supported by probable cause, or "[i]f it does not
describe the person, place, or thing to be searched or the
property, article, material, substance, or person to be
seized with sufficient certainty." Id. (quoting
section 542.276.10(5)). "[A] search warrant is required
to search the contents of a cell phone unless an exception to
the warrant requirement exists[.]" State v.
Clampitt, 364 S.W.3d 605, 610 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012)
(internal citation omitted).
When analyzing a challenge to a warrant's description of
the property to be searched, this court must determine if the
property has been described with sufficient particularity to
allow the officer executing the warrant to locate and
identify the property with reasonable effort and if a
reasonable probability exists that another property might
mistakenly be searched. State v. Cummings, 714
S.W.2d 877, 880 (Mo.App.S.D.1986); see also U.S. v.
Kelly, 772 F.3d 1072, 1081 (7th Cir.2014). A search
warrant must "[i]dentify the place ... which is to be
searched, in sufficient detail and particularity that the
officer executing the warrant can readily ascertain ... what
he or she is to search[.]" Section 542.276.6(5). If the
place to be searched is not described with sufficient
certainty, the resulting warrant will be deemed invalid.
State v. Hardy, 497 S.W.3d 836, 838 (Mo. App. S.D.
2016). "We review whether the issuing judge's
determination was clearly erroneous by looking at the four
corners of the search warrant application and supporting
affidavits." State v. Norman, 133 S.W.3d 151,
159 (Mo. App. S.D. 2004).
April 26, 2019, James Christopher Bales
("Defendant") was charged with one count of
first-degree domestic assault, two counts of abuse or neglect
of a child, and two counts of first-degree endangering the
welfare of a child based upon allegations that he caused
serious physical injuries to a twenty-two-month-old child.
Detective Thomas Fenton ("Detective Fenton")
interviewed Defendant at his home about those allegations.
During the interview, Defendant handed Detective Fenton his
Samsung cell phone to show the detective a video Defendant
had taken on the phone of the child sitting on the floor and
banging his head.
couple of days later, Defendant came to the interview room
with his attorney to speak with Detective Fenton again.
Defendant showed Detective Fenton the video of the child
again on the same phone. After that meeting, Detective Fenton
applied for and received a search warrant for Defendant's