Friday, April 15, 2016

State v. Carrawell

Opinion handed down January 12, 2016

I.  Facts and Holding
        In April of 2012, several City of St. Louis police officers were in a neighborhood speaking with a group of residents about increased instances of gang activity in the area.[8] The group included at least one young child.[9]  During this conversation, Officer Curtis Burgdorf saw a man park nearby and proceed to stare over at the officers for thirty seconds or so.[10]  When the man, later identified as Derrick Carrawell, got out of the vehicle, he began making a string of vulgar comments and lewd gestures toward the officers.[11]  He continued this behavior as he went around to the passenger side door to retrieve a white plastic grocery bag.[12]  Officer Burgdorf decided to approach Carrawell and place him under arrest for peace disturbance for his behavior in front of the concerned residents and child.[13]
        Despite Officer Burgdorf informing Carrawell that he was being placed under arrest, Carrawell proceeded to walk away from the scene.[14] Officer Burgdorf followed him and attempted to grab ahold of Carrawell as he attempted to enter an apartment.[15]  The two men then struggled as Officer Burgdorf tried to handcuff Carrawell and told him to drop the grocery bag.[16]  Officer Burgdorf was eventually able to place Carrawell in the cuffs, and in the process, he ripped the bag from Carrawell’s grasp.[17]  There was a breaking sound as it hit the ground.[18] Officer Burgdorf then escorted Carrawell to his patrol vehicle, with the officer carrying the bag.[19]
        Carrawell began struggling again as Officer Burgdorf tried to get him into the vehicle; Officer Burgdorf set the bag on top of the trunk while he focused on getting the suspect securely inside.[20]  Once Carrawell was seated inside, Officer Burgdorf turned his attention to the contents of the grocery bag.[21]  He found a broken ceramic plate and a small plastic baggie of tan powder inside. Through his training and experience, Officer Burgdorf suspected the powdery substance to be heroin.[22]
        Carrawell was charged with drug possession, a class C felony.[23]  He filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence of the heroin on the grounds that: (1) his arrest was unlawful and (2) the search of the grocery bag was unlawful.[24]  The trial court overruled the motion on both grounds. When Carrawell presented the same objections at trial, the court again overruled them.[25] Carrawell was found guilty and sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment. Carrawell appealed, contesting the lower court ruling on his motion to suppress.[26]
II.  Legal Background
“At a hearing on a motion to suppress, the state bears both the burden of producing evidence and the risk of nonpersuasion to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the motion to suppress should be overruled.”[27] Determining whether there was reasonable suspicion present to effectuate an arrest and probable cause present to conduct a search are reviewed from a de novo standard.[28]
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Missouri Constitution also has such a provision at Article I, section 15. Under Chimel v. California, if officers have arrested a person, it is reasonable to search that person as well as “the area within his immediate control,” or the area “from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.”[29] A search that extends beyond this is considered unlawful under the Fourth Amendment.  “When evidence is obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the judicially developed exclusionary rule usually precludes its use in a criminal proceeding against the victim of the illegal search and seizure.”[30]
III.  Instant Decision
        The Supreme Court of Missouri ultimately upheld Carrawell’s conviction.  First, it found that his arrest was lawful because, questions about the peace disturbance ordinance aside, there was probable cause to arrest Carrawell for resisting arrest.[31]  Second, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that the search of Carrawel’s bag was not a lawful search incident to arrest, but the exclusionary rule did not apply.  The court relied onChimel to hold that while the arrest was lawful, the search occurred when the plastic bag was not within Carrawell’s immediate control, abrogating Missouri precedent allowing officers to search arrestee’s personal effects even when outside the immediate control of the arrestee (construing such effects as an extension of and therefore search of the person).[32] 
But even though this was an unlawful search, “the exclusionary rule is triggered only when police practices are ‘deliberate enough to yield meaningful deterrence, and culpable enough to be worth the price paid by the justice system.’”[33] Here, “the exclusionary rule did not apply to the case because, at the time of the search, there was court of appeals precedent authorizing officers to search an arrestee’s personal effects as a search incident to arrest, even if such items were not within the arrestee’s immediate control.”[34]  The judgment was affirmed.[35]
IV.  Comment
        The court’s decision in State v. Carrawell is important to take note of because it abrogates earlier Missouri cases allowing for broader police searches in arrest scenarios. “Warrantless searches are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, unless an ‘established and well-delineated’ exception applies.”[36] One well-established exception to this rule is a search incident to lawful arrest, which allows an officer to “search an arrestee’s person and the area ‘within his immediate control’ – construing that phrase to mean the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.”[37]
        When Carrawell was arrested in April 2012, there was case law in Missouri that allowed “an arrestee’s personal effects (e.g., a purse or a backpack) [to] be searched even when they are not within the immediate control of the arrestee because such a search qualifies as a search of the person – i.e., the personal effects are part of the person.”[38] The court inCarrawell abrogated this notion, explaining that “[t]his reasoning is based on a misunderstanding of law and should no longer be followed.”[39]
– Blair Bopp

[1] State v. Carrawell, No. SC 94927, 2016 WL 142804, at *1 (Mo. Jan. 12, 2016), reh'g denied (Mar. 1, 2016).
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id. 
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Id.
[12] Id.
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Id.
[17] Id.
[18] Id.
[19] Id.
[20] Id.
[21] Id.
[22] The substance was later tested and confirmed to be heroin. Id.
[23] Id.
[24] Id.
[25] Id.
[26] Id.
[27] Id. at *2 (quoting State v. Grayson, 336 S.W.3d 138, 142 (Mo. 2011) (en banc) (internal quotations omitted)).
[28] Carrwell, 2016 WL 142804, at *2 (citing Grayson, 336 S.W.3d at 142).
[30] Id. (quoting Illinois v. Krull, 480 U.S. 340, 347 (1987)).
[31] Carrawell, 2016 WL 142804, at *2.
[32] Id. at *3 (citing Chimel, 395 U.S. at 763)
[33] Id. at *10 (quoting State v. Johnson, 354 S.W.3d 627, 630 (Mo. 2011) (en banc)).
[34] Carrawell, 2016 WL 142804, at *10.
[35] Id.
[36] Id. at *3 (quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967)).
[37] Carrawell, 2016 WL 142804, at *3 (quoting Chimel, 395 U.S. at 763).
[38] Carrawell, 2016 WL 142804, at *3 (citing State v. Ellis, 355 S.W.3d 522, 524 (Mo. App. 2011); State v. Rattler, 639 S.W.2d 277, 278 (Mo. App. 1982))(emphasis added).
[39] Id.