State v. Venezia, 58721

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtHOLMAN; DONNELLY; SEILER; BARDGETT, J., concurs in result and concurs in separate concurring opinion of SEILER; SEILER; In his concurring opinion in Gustafson
Citation515 S.W.2d 492
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Thomas VENEZIA, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 58721,58721
Decision Date12 November 1974

John C. Danforth, Atty. Gen., Charles B. Blackmar, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Louis, David Robards, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for plaintiff-respondent.

Robert H. Wendt, St. Louis, for defendant-appellant.

HOLMAN, Judge.

Defendant-Appellant was charged with the offense of carrying a concealed weapon. See Sec. 564.610 RSMo 1969, V.A.M.S. He waived a jury. Upon trial before the court he was found guilty and punishment was fixed at imprisonment in the St. Louis Medium Security Institution for ninety days. Defendant appealed to the St. Louis District of the Court of Appeals which court adopted an opinion affirming the judgment. Upon the certificate of a dissenting judge the case was transferred to this court. Rule 83.01, V.A.M.R. It will be finally determined here the same as on original appeal. We affirm.

At 7:15 p.m. on July 28, 1972, St. Louis Police Officer Farrell observed defendant urinating against the rear wall of the building located at 5221 Waterman. Farrell testified that defendant 'walked back to the car. By the time I got out of the police car he was getting back into his car. I walked back and asked him to get out of the car. When he got out of the car I placed him under arrest for Lewd and Indecent Conduct.' Officer Farrell further testified that there were three negro males in the rear seat of the car whom he told to get out; that he saw a small yellow envelope on the driver's seat; that he had been trained in the identification of narcotics and thought this envelope contained marijuana; that he opened the envelope and it appeared to contain marijuana and he arrested defendant for violating the controlled substance law; that he then opened a zipper-type carrying case which was on the front seat and found a fully loaded .38 calibre revolver therein; that defendant admitted that he owned the revolver and he then arrested him on the weapons charge.

The only evidence offered by defendant was the testimony of William Lee. This witness stated that he had been an employee of defendant and was in the car at the time in question; that the revolver had been lying exposed on the front seat but when he saw the officer approaching he had placed it in the zipper-case.

Defendant's first point is that 'The court erred in not sustaining defendant's motion to suppress and in admitting the pistol in evidence.' The evidence offered on the motion was about the same as heretofore stated except that defendant testified that he had started to drive away when the officer honked his horn, and motioned for him to stop and that he then voluntarily got out of the car. The officer also stated that when he arrested defendant he was 'standing right beside his car.' We also desire to point out that the recent case of State v. Achter, 512 S.W.2d 894 (Mo.App.1974) contains a very complete collection of the cases dealing with the warrantless search of automobiles incident to a valid arrest in traffic cases.

We rule that an officer making a lawful warrantless custodial arrest of the driver for a minor offense may, as an incident thereto, search such part of the interior of the automobile from which the driver might obtain a weapon; and that is true even though the arrestee has been required to get out of the car and is standing nearby.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Art. I, Sec. 15 of the Missouri Constitution, V.A.M.S., undoubtedly prohibit unreasonable searches and it is well settled that evidence obtained by a search that violates those provisions is inadmissible in a state court prosecution. The conventional method, of course, to lawfully search for items that may offend against the law is by use of a judicially issued search warrant. There are, however, well established exceptions to the search warrant requirement, one of which is a search incident to a lawful arrest. A search of the person arrested was approved in the early case of Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652 (1914) wherein the court stated that the right to make such a search had been uniformly maintained in many cases. A few years later the right was expanded in Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20, 30, 46 S.Ct. 4, 5, 70 L.Ed. 145 (1925) the court stating that: 'The right without a search warrant contemporaneously to search persons lawfully arrested while committing crime and to search the place where the arrest is made in order to find and seize things connected with the crime as its fruits or as the means by which it was committed, as well as weapons and other things to effect an escape from custody, is not to be doubted.' In Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 153, 45 S.Ct. 280, 285, 69 L.Ed. 543 (1925) the court pointed out that in considering whether searches are unreasonable there is 'a necessary difference between a search of a store, dwelling house or other structure in respect of which a proper official warrant readily may be obtained, and a search of a ship, motor boat, wagon or automobile for contraband goods, where it is not practicable to secure a warrant because the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.'

The case of Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 89 S.Ct. 2034, 23 L.Ed.2d 685 (1969) involved a search of a home and the decision restricted the area which could be searched incident to an arrest. In its discussion the court stated: 'When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the arresting officer to search the person arrested in order to remove any weapons that the latter might seek to use in order to resist arrest or effect his escape. Otherwise, the officer's safety might well be endangered, and the arrest itself frustrated. In addition, it is entirely reasonable for the arresting officer to search for and seize any evidence on the arrestee's person in order to prevent its concealment or destruction. And the area into which an arrestee might reach in order to grab a weapon or evidentiary items must, of course, be governed by a like rule. A gun on a table or in a drawer in front of one who is arrested can be as dangerous to the arresting officer as one concealed in the clothing of the person arrested. There is ample justification, therefore, for a search of the arrestee's person and the area 'within his immediate control'--construing that phrase to mean the area from within which he might gain posession of a weapon or destructible evidence.' 395 U.S. 762, 763, 89 S.Ct. 2034, 2040, 23 L.Ed.2d 685. In Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 367, 84 S.Ct. 881, 883, 11 L.Ed.2d 777 (1964) the court said that 'Unquestionably, when a person is lawfully arrested, the police have the right, without a search warrant, to make a contemporaneous search of the person of the accused for weapons or for the fruits of or implements used to commit the crime. . . . and, to an extent depending on the circumstances of the case, to the place where he is arrested, . . . The rule allowing contemporaneous searches is justified, for example, by the need to seize weapons and other things which might be used to assault an officer or effect an escape, as well as by the need to prevent the destruction of evidence of the crime--things which might easily happen where the weapon or evidence is on the accused's person or under his immediate control.' Other more recent cases which tend to support our decision are Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42, 90 S.Ct. 1975, 26 L.Ed.2d 419 (1970), Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 92 S.Ct. 1921, 32 L.Ed.2d 612 (1972) and Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433, 93 S.Ct. 2523, 413 U.S. 433 (1973).

Defendant relies solely upon the case of State v. Meeks, 467 S.W.2d 65 (Mo.1971) in support of his contention that no part of an automobile may be searched following an arrest for a minor offense. The principal opinion in Meeks supports that contention but only two judges concurred therein. Two other judges concurring in result stated that they would permit a search after a traffic arrest only if there was 'something more' in connection with the operation of the car or other suspicious actions. The dissenting judges had the view that it is reasonable to search that portion of the interior of the automobile which is accessible to the driver or other arrestee. The dissenting opinion states the following:

"The right to search incident to arrest is deeply rooted in the common law. The rule reflects, as Justice Cardozo once observed, a 'shrewd appreciation for the necessities of government.' As a practical matter, the courts recognized that a police officer must have some power to conduct an immediate search following arrest in order to remove any weapons from the reach of a suspect and to prevent him from destroying evidence of the crime. While early decisions limited the search to the person of the accused, the doctrine was extended in later years to things within the 'immediate possession' or 'control' of the suspect.' Hotis, Search of Motor Vehicles, Dickinson Law Review, 1969, p. 421. And I approve the statement of Burton Agata in St Louis University Law Journal, 1962, p. 6, that 'The necessity to search for weapons or other instrumentalities for use in escape creates a situation where the interest of privacy is subordinated to the need for providing an arresting officer with an effective means to protect himself from bodily injury and, perhaps death. What then is the basis for suggesting that a person properly arrested has a claim to privacy which is greater than the interest in preserving the arresting officer's life, merely because the arrest is for a traffic violation?' The recent decisions in State v. Moody, Mo.Sup., 443 S.W.2d 802, and State v. Robinson, Mo.Sup., 447 S.W.2d 71, sustain the validity of the search of the person of the driver as an...

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5 cases
  • State v. Hedrick, KCD
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 1, 1976
    ...were unrelated to the cause for the original arrest is no grounds for objection. United States v. Robinson, supra; State v. Venezia, 515 S.W.2d 492 (Mo. banc 1974); State v. Darabcsek, 412 S.W.2d 97, 102(1) (Mo.1967); United States v. Simpson, 453 F.2d 1028, 1031(6--9) (10th Cir. Appellant ......
  • State v. Woods, s. 16691
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 23, 1990
    ...I, § 15; State v. Mercer, 618 S.W.2d 1, 9 (Mo. banc), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 933, 102 S.Ct. 432, 70 L.Ed.2d 240 (1981); State v. Venezia, 515 S.W.2d 492, 493 (Mo. banc 1974); State v. Sutton, 454 S.W.2d 481, 484 (Mo. banc 1969). Evidence is inadmissible if illegally obtained, directly or in......
  • State v. Gibbs, WD
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 5, 1980
    ...the object in plain view is evidence which incriminates the accused." Dayton, supra, page 486, and cases cited. See State v. Venezia, 515 S.W.2d 492 (Mo. banc 1974), where although the issue was not seizure of an object in plain view, the facts were these: Defendant was arrested for lewd an......
  • State v. Gibeson, WD
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 2, 1981
    ...53 L.Ed.2d 538 (1977), among others. The cases upon which Gibeson relies are not pertinent. Meeks was overruled in State v. Venezia, 515 S.W.2d 492 (Mo. banc 1974), and Chadwick and similar cases which treat searches of automobile trunks and locked or sealed bags or containers have no appli......
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