State v. Grayson

Decision Date29 March 2011
Docket NumberNo. SC 90971.,SC 90971.
Citation336 S.W.3d 138
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent,v.Matthew T. GRAYSON, Appellant.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court


Alexa I. Pearson, Public Defender's Office, Columbia, for Grayson.Terrence M. Messonnier, Attorney General's Office, Jefferson City, for the State.LAURA DENVIR STITH, Judge.

Matthew T. Grayson appeals from a judgment of conviction of possession of a controlled substance. Mr. Grayson argues that the trial court erred in overruling his motion to suppress the evidence of methamphetamine found in a patrol car in which Mr. Grayson was riding because the evidence was the product of an unreasonable seizure of Mr. Grayson's person. This Court agrees that the seizure of Mr. Grayson was unreasonable initially because it was based solely on an uncorroborated anonymous tip. Further, once the officer observed that Mr. Grayson was not the person mentioned in the tip, and had committed no traffic infractions, it was improper for the officer to continue to detain him simply because he had in the past been the subject of arrests. The taint from this improper seizure was not attenuated by the fact that, as a result of the illegal detention, the officer learned that Mr. Grayson had an outstanding municipal warrant and arrested him on that warrant. None of the other exceptions to the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine apply. The trial court erred in not suppressing the evidence of methamphetamine because the evidence of methamphetamine was the fruit of Mr. Grayson's unreasonable seizure.


On the evening of March 25, 2008, Officer Paul Lambert of the Phelps County sheriff's department was patrolling the Newburg area in Phelps County. He received a dispatch that a possible drunken driver had left a nearby address on West Fifth Street in a red Ford pickup truck. The dispatcher also gave the name of the suspect, Terry Reed, whom Officer Lambert knew, and stated that Mr. Reed had an outstanding parole warrant. The information for the dispatch came from an anonymous tip. No evidence was ever presented regarding the source of or corroboration for the anonymous tip.

Officer Lambert initially looked for the red Ford truck at and near the location of the West Fifth Street address. Unable to find the truck, he continued patrolling the area. Approximately one-half mile away, the officer saw a red Mazda pickup truck drive by on Main Street. The officer recognized that the truck was not the same make as that mentioned by the anonymous tip and that it was not in the location mentioned in the tip. He thought from his view of the truck as it drove by that the driver resembled Mr. Reed, however, so he began to follow the truck. Officer Lambert continued following the truck for a few blocks and observed no traffic violations. Neither did he see any signs that the driver of this red truck was intoxicated, as the tipster said was true of the driver of the Ford truck that was the subject of the tip. Nonetheless, Officer Lambert decided to conduct an investigatory stop and pulled the vehicle over. As soon as the officer walked up to the window of the red Mazda truck, he realized that the driver was not Terry Reed—the subject of the tip—but rather was someone else he knew, Matthew Grayson.

At this point the officer knew that the vehicle was not the one mentioned in the tip—it did not match the make of the truck mentioned in the anonymous tip, it was not being driven by the person mentioned in the anonymous tip, it was on a different street, the driver was not intoxicated and the driver had committed no traffic infractions. Further, the officer had no knowledge at the time he stopped the truck of any current warrants for Mr. Grayson's arrest.

Nonetheless, because the officer knew that Mr. Grayson previously had some arrests, he decided he would hold Mr. Grayson while he checked to see if there happened to be a current warrant. Officer Lambert told Mr. Grayson that he was conducting an investigative stop and that he was looking for someone else, but that “I need to see your driver's license.” The officer testified that Mr. Grayson was not free to leave at that time. Mr. Grayson handed over his license, which Officer Lambert took back to his patrol car. When the officer checked with dispatch, he determined that there was a municipal warrant for Mr. Grayson's arrest. He then placed Mr. Grayson under arrest, put him in the backseat of the patrol car and transported him to jail.1

After arriving at the jail, Officer Lambert removed Mr. Grayson from the patrol car. The officer then lifted the backseat of the patrol car and found a small bag of a white powdery substance under the seat. Mr. Grayson protested that the bag was not his. Prior to his shift, however, Officer Lambert had cleaned the patrol car and had been the only one in the car other than Mr. Grayson. The white powdery substance later was tested at a crime laboratory and found to be methamphetamine.

Mr. Grayson was charged with possession of a controlled substance. The trial court overruled his motion to suppress the bag of methamphetamine and any testimony pertaining to it. After a bench trial, Mr. Grayson was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. After decision by the court of appeals, this Court granted transfer. Mo. Const. art. V, § 10.


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.” State v. Franklin, 841 S.W.2d 639, 644 (Mo. banc 1992). “When reviewing the trial court's overruling of a motion to suppress, this Court considers the evidence presented at both the suppression hearing and at trial to determine whether sufficient evidence exists in the record to support the trial court's ruling.” State v. Pike, 162 S.W.3d 464, 472 (Mo. banc 2005). “The Court defers to the trial court's determination of credibility and factual findings, inquiring only ‘whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence, and it will be reversed only if clearly erroneous.’ State v. Goff, 129 S.W.3d 857, 862 (Mo. banc 2004), quoting State v. Edwards, 116 S.W.3d 511, 530 (Mo. banc 2003). By contrast, legal “determinations of reasonable suspicion and probable cause” are reviewed de novo. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996).


Mr. Grayson argues that the initial investigatory stop of his vehicle was invalid because it was based on an anonymous tip that failed to provide reasonable suspicion. Further, he argues, his continued detention after Officer Lambert determined that he was not Terry Reed was illegal because it was made without reasonable suspicion or articulable facts on which to base a belief of criminal activity. This Court agrees.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that [t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.” 2 U.S. Const. amend. IV. A person is seized “when the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident indicates that ‘a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.’ State v. Sund, 215 S.W.3d 719, 723 (Mo. banc 2007), quoting, State v. Werner, 9 S.W.3d 590, 600 (Mo. banc 2000).

Here, Officer Lambert detained Mr. Grayson by compelling him to pull his vehicle over to the side of the road for questioning. The officer said that Mr. Grayson was not free to leave, and a reasonable person would not feel free to leave once he was pulled over by the police and his license taken. This constitutes a seizure that implicates the Fourth Amendment. United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 105 S.Ct. 675, 83 L.Ed.2d 604 (1985) (“stopping a car and detaining its occupants constitutes a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment); State v. Hyland, 840 S.W.2d 219, 221 (Mo. banc 1992) (“a vehicle stop ... constitutes a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments).

The issue, therefore, becomes whether the seizure was reasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes. The State argues that it was a reasonable “ Terry stop ” under the principles set out in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Under Terry, ‘where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot ...,’ the officer may briefly stop the suspicious person and make ‘reasonable inquiries' aimed at confirming or dispelling his suspicions.” Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 373, 113 S.Ct. 2130, 124 L.Ed.2d 334 (1993), quoting, Terry, 392 U.S. at 30, 88 S.Ct. 1868. A Terry stop remains valid only so long as it is “based on reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that the person stopped is engaged in criminal activity.” State v. Deck, 994 S.W.2d 527, 534 (Mo. banc 1999). In evaluating reasonable suspicion, courts must “determine if the content of the information possessed by the police and its degree of reliability is sufficient to create a ‘reasonable suspicion’ of criminal activity.” State v. Berry, 54 S.W.3d 668, 673 (Mo.App.2001).

A suspicion is reasonable when, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the officer is “able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.” Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S.Ct. 1868; see also United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621 (1981) ([T]he detaining...

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