State v. Blair, 66352

Decision Date29 May 1985
Docket NumberNo. 66352,66352
Citation691 S.W.2d 259
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Zola BLAIR, Defendant-Respondent.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Albert A. Riederer, Pros. Atty., Robert Frager, Asst. Pros. Atty., Kansas City, for plaintiff-appellant.

William L. Webster, Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, Philip M. Koppe, Asst. Atty. Gen., Kansas City, for Missouri Attorney General as amicus curiae.

Joseph Locascio, Sp. Public Defender, Kansas City, for defendant-respondent.


Zola Blair, charged with murder, moved to suppress certain evidence, including her palm prints and statements made to the police, and to quash an arrest warrant. The trial court, after evidentiary hearing, sustained her motion. The State of Missouri filed an interlocutory appeal from the order of suppression pursuant to section 547.200, RSMo; the Court of Appeals, Western District, affirmed. This Court granted transfer to examine the effect, if any, of United States Supreme Court cases decided subsequent to the Western District decision. The question is whether, in the circumstances of this case, defendant's initial arrest was pretextual and rendered her subsequent detention unlawful and evidence obtained incident thereto inadmissible. This Court draws freely from the opinion written by the Honorable Jack P. Pritchard for the court of appeals and reaches the same result.

This case involves three well-known principles of law:

First and foremost is the constitutional protection of citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by requiring the authorities to secure a search warrant based on probable cause, "describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized...." Mo. Const. art. 1, § 15; U.S. Const., amend. IV. "[A]ll warrantless searches, subject only to a few well delineated exceptions, are per se constitutionally offensive." State v. Peterson, 525 S.W.2d 599, 603 (Mo.App.1975).

Second is the case law-supported rule that upon review of a trial court's order, the facts, and reasonable inferences arising therefrom, are to be stated favorably to the order challenged on appeal. See State v. Giffin, 640 S.W.2d 128, 130 (Mo.1982).

Third is the case law-supported rule that the reviewing court is free to disregard contrary evidence and inferences, and is to affirm the trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress if the evidence is sufficient to sustain its finding. Giffin, supra; State v. Baskerville, 616 S.W.2d 839, 843 (Mo.1981); State v. Rainbolt, 676 S.W.2d 527, 528 (Mo.App.1984).

Police discovered a murder on November 24, 1981; the only evidence found was a palm print. On January 22, 1982, an informer implicated Zola Blair and her family in the murder. Comparison of the palm prints of other family members with the print found at the scene of the crime failed to produce a match; defendant's print was not in the police file. On January 23, Detective Lauffer requested that defendant be picked up for homicide but did not ask for a homicide arrest or search warrant because he believed there was not enough evidence to support a warrant. The police then learned that she was the subject of an outstanding city warrant for a traffic violation. On February 5, 1982, police arrested defendant at her home, took her to the homicide unit, booked her on a charge of homicide, and took her palm and finger prints. Later that day, she was questioned about the homicide. After the interrogation, the officer requested that her palm print be compared with that taken from the crime scene. She was detained for homicide overnight and released at 10:45 a.m. the next day. Fourteen minutes later she was booked on the municipal court parking warrant. At 12:55 p.m., she posted bond on the traffic violation and was released.

On February 8, 1982, upon learning that defendant's print matched the print found at the scene of the crime, police sought and received an arrest warrant on the homicide. She was arrested at 5:30 p.m. on that day and booked shortly thereafter. During an interrogation that began at 6:15 p.m., officers confronted her with evidence of the matching prints and obtained inculpatory statements.

For reversal the State contends that once a legal basis for an arrest exists--in this case the outstanding traffic warrant--the subjective motives of the police become irrelevant; therefore, defendant was in lawful custody pursuant to the parking violation warrant when fingerprinted, and the prints obtained then, as well as the statements that followed, are admissible. Respondent argues that the trial court correctly found that she was not in lawful custody because the arrest was but a pretext for a search; and that the palm print and statements obtained on February 5, 1982, are inadmissible as products of an illegal detention, and the February 8th statements are also inadmissible as the "fruit" of the illegally seized palm print. Appellant counters that even if "seizure" of the palm print was illegal, this does not render the later statement inadmissible.

The United States Supreme Court recently reaffirmed its holding in Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969), that the exclusionary rule, barring admission of all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the warrant requirement, applies to investigatory detentions in general and to fingerprint evidence in particular. Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811, 105 S.Ct. 1643, 84 L.Ed.2d 705 (1985). In Hayes, police found latent finger-prints on the doorknob of the bedroom of one of the victims of a series of burglary-rapes. Police interviewed Hayes along with other men whose general descriptions matched that of the assailant. Acting on suspicion and without a warrant, investigators went to Hayes' home with the intent to obtain his fingerprints or arrest him if necessary. Id. at ----, 105 S.Ct. at 1644. Under threat of arrest, Hayes accompanied the officers to the station house, where he was fingerprinted. Police formally arrested Hayes after they learned that his prints matched those left at the scene of the crime. The trial court denied Hayes' motion to suppress the fingerprint evidence and he was convicted of burglary and sexual battery. The United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment, noting that "[h]ere, as in Davis, there was no probable cause to arrest, no consent to the journey to the police station, and no judicial authorization for such a detention for fingerprinting purposes." Id. at ----, 105 S.Ct. at 1464. The Court held that police investigative activity triggers the "full protection" of the fourth amendment "when the police, without probable cause or a warrant, forcibly remove a person from his home or other place in which he is entitled to be and transport him to the police station, where he is detained, although briefly, for investigative purposes." Id.

In this case it is undisputed that the police lacked probable cause to arrest defendant on the homicide charge; to establish the legality of the warrantless search and seizure here, then, the State must show that one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applies.

Appellant seeks to bring the challenged fingerprinting within the search incident to a lawful arrest exception to the warrant requirement. A valid custodial arrest of a suspect authorizes, without more, a search incident to the arrest. United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973); State v. Moody, 443 S.W.2d 802 (Mo.1969). It is also true that a suspect in lawful custody is subject to fingerprinting as part of routine identification procedure. Smith v. United States, 324 F.2d 879 (D.C.Cir.1963), cert. denied, 377 U.S. 954, 84 S.Ct. 1632, 12 L.Ed.2d 498 (1964); State v. Hunter, 625 S.W.2d 682 (Mo.App.1981). Prerequisites to application of the foregoing are a lawful arrest, Taglavore v. United States, 291 F.2d 262 (9th Cir.1961), and lawful custody, Hunter, 625 S.W.2d at 684 ("Although a person may not be taken into custody for the purpose of fingerprinting if the police do not have a warrant or probable cause, ... once he is lawfully arrested, he is subject to a full search incident to the arrest.").

The evidence conflicts on whether the officers arrested defendant on the outstanding parking violation warrant. Officer Stewart testified that he "arrested her for an outstanding city warrant and also asked her to accompany [them] with regards to a pickup order issued by the crimes against persons unit." He also testified that he went to her residence to take her into custody on the homicide pickup order and he did not have an arrest warrant. He advised defendant of her constitutional rights in compliance with Miranda although such warnings are not given on arrests for parking violations that do not involve criminal activity. Officer Stewart's partner, Officer Thomas, filed the report of the arrest under the homicide charge number as "investigation arrest-criminal homicide"; and the officers followed the procedure used for arresting and booking an individual on a homicide charge rather than that used for a traffic violation. Defendant was taken to the homicide unit at the police department's downtown station and booked there on a state charge for homicide, not for the parking violation at the district station on 63rd street. Under the normal procedure for booking a person on a municipal court parking violation, the police obtain one fingerprint of the person and allow the person to remain at the district station for four hours in order to post bond. In this case, the suspect was taken to the homicide unit where a complete set of defendant's palm and finger prints was taken, she underwent interrogation regarding the homicide, and was detained overnight. It was after all this that the police booked her on the parking violation.

The conflicts thus raised by the evidence were for the trial court to resolve. The trial...

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