State v. Hughes

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Citation563 S.W.3d 119
Docket NumberNo. SC 96867,SC 96867
Parties STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Edward HUGHES, Appellant.
Decision Date18 December 2018

563 S.W.3d 119

STATE of Missouri, Respondent,
Edward HUGHES, Appellant.

No. SC 96867

Supreme Court of Missouri, en banc.

Opinion issued December 18, 2018

Hughes was represented by Scott Thompson of the public defender’s office in St. Louis, (314) 340-7662.

The state was represented by Shaun J. Mackelprang of the attorney general’s office in Jefferson City, (314) 751-3321.


Edward Hughes appeals the circuit court’s decision overruling his motion to suppress drugs and drug paraphernalia found during a warrantless search and seizure of his bag, which police seized from the back seat of the vehicle in which he had been riding. Mr. Hughes argues the circuit court erred in holding these items were within his possession or control when the facts showed he was handcuffed outside the open back seat door and in the custody of two officers when the bag was seized. He argues under Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 129 S.Ct. 1710, 173 L.Ed.2d 485 (2009) , and State v. Carrawell , 481 S.W.3d 833 (Mo. banc 2016) , the drugs and drug paraphernalia should have been suppressed.

This Court affirms. While Mr. Hughes has standing to challenge the seizure of the bag he admitted belonged to him, this Court need not reach the issue whether Gant or Carrawell required the motion to suppress to be sustained because no prejudice resulted from it being overruled in this court-tried case. Sufficient additional evidence to support the conviction was introduced by the defense in its cross-examination of one of the arresting officers and through the defense’s stipulation to the admission of the laboratory report showing the seized items were heroin and cocaine.


On the evening of September 9, 2015, officers traveling on Salisbury Road toward Natural Bridge Road in St. Louis City saw a black Chevy Impala approximately four car lengths ahead run a red light while traveling southbound. The officers activated their emergency lights and sirens. The vehicle continued for a short distance before making a U-turn and pulling over.

Mr. Hughes was a passenger in the back seat of the vehicle. The officers approached and obtained identifying information about him, the driver, and the other passenger. They found no basis for holding or arresting the driver or other passenger beyond issuing traffic citations, and the two ultimately left with the vehicle. But the officers discovered an arrest warrant for Mr. Hughes and asked him to step outside the vehicle. Once he did so, they placed him under arrest and in handcuffs.

Officer Murphy searched Mr. Hughes and found a suspicious substance in his pocket. Officer Murphy also saw a drawstring bag on the back seat directly next to where Mr. Hughes had been sitting and asked Mr. Hughes if the bag was his. When Mr. Hughes said it was, Officer Jeffries reached into the vehicle, seized the bag, and searched its contents. Officer Murphy testified that, at the time of the search, Officer Jeffries was standing next to Mr. Hughes, who was standing between Officer Murphy and the vehicle while in handcuffs. Officer Murphy could not estimate

563 S.W.3d 122

how far from the bag or from the car Mr. Hughes was standing. Inside the bag, Officer Jeffries found what appeared to be – and later was confirmed to be – drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Mr. Hughes was taken into custody and charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia. In the probable cause statement, Officer Murphy referred to the searches of both the bag and Mr. Hughes' pocket as "searches incident to arrest."

Mr. Hughes did not challenge the search of his pocket, but he moved to suppress the evidence found inside the bag. He argued it was not found pursuant to a lawful search incident to arrest because it was not found on his person or within his immediate control as required by Gant and Carrawell.1 The circuit court did not rule on the motion to suppress before it held a bench trial, informing counsel at the outset of the trial it would take up the motion to suppress evidence at the end of the proceeding. The record does not reflect either Mr. Hughes or the prosecutor objecting to this order of proceedings.

Defense counsel gave a brief opening statement in which she stated, "I believe the evidence at trial today will demonstrate that the evidence constituting the basis of charges I and III in this matter should be suppressed because they were not found pursuant to a lawful search." The remainder of the bench trial consisted of the direct and cross-examination of Officer Murphy, stipulated admission of laboratory reports showing the materials found in Mr. Hughes' pocket and bag were heroin and cocaine, and a brief argument about the merits of the motion to suppress in lieu of closing argument.

The prosecution questioned Officer Murphy about his search of Mr. Hughes' pocket and of the bag and moved to admit this evidence as State’s exhibits 1 and 2. Defense counsel said she had no objection to introduction of either exhibit:

PROSECUTOR: Okay. Do those items, those bags and those items appear – are those the same items that were removed from the defendant on September 9, 2015?


PROSECUTOR: And the same items that you took – packaged and took to the lab?


PROSECUTOR: Okay. Your Honor, I would move to admit State’s Exhibit 1 into evidence.

THE COURT: Any objection, Counsel?



PROSECUTOR: Okay. Can I have you remove the contents of that item? And what is that?

OFFICER MURPHY: This is the electronic grinder and the digital scale, which were removed from the defendant’s black nylon bag.

PROSECUTOR: Okay. And is the bag or the contents of the bag appear to have been altered in any way?

563 S.W.3d 123
PROSECUTOR: And is the – are those the items that you seized from the defendant or his person on September 9, 2015?


PROSECUTOR: Your Honor, I would ask to move State’s Exhibit 2 into evidence.

THE COURT: Any objection, Counsel?


Defense counsel then cross-examined Officer Murphy. After asking about the procedure used to search Mr. Hughes and seize the drugs, where Mr. Hughes was standing, and how he was secured, defense counsel specifically asked the officer whether he had found drugs and drug paraphernalia in the bag seized from Mr. Hughes:

DEFENSE COUNSEL: Okay. And your partner’s the one who searched the bag?


DEFENSE COUNSEL: He did that in your presence?


DEFENSE COUNSEL: And this was while Mr. Hughes was in cuffs?


DEFENSE COUNSEL: Your officeryour partner found the suspected narcotics in the bag?


DEFENSE COUNSEL: And suspected paraphernalia?


(Emphasis added). Following the testimony of Officer Murphy, the prosecutor moved to admit the laboratory report, which concluded the items found in Mr. Hughes' bag and in his pocket were cocaine and heroin. The prosecutor informed the court both parties agreed to stipulate to the laboratory report, to which Mr. Hughes' counsel replied again, "I have no objection." The court admitted the laboratory report into evidence.

After both parties rested, defense counsel briefly argued in support of Mr. Hughes' motion to suppress there was no possible way for Mr. Hughes to access the bag at the time of the search because it was out of reaching distance and because he was in handcuffs and being guarded and, therefore, the bag should have been suppressed under Gant and Carrawell . The prosecutor contended the circuit court should determine the bag was subject to a search incident to arrest because it was within the reach of Mr. Hughes and so "immediately associated with him," although the prosecutor did not dispute Mr. Hughes was in handcuffs at the time.

The circuit court overruled the motion to suppress, explaining "after the defendant, Mr. Hughes, indicated that the bag belonged to him, the – certainly the officers had a right to take the...

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