Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Criminal Law : Warrantless Search – Control – ‘Purse Exception’

Stephanie Maniscalco//January 13, 2016//

Criminal Law : Warrantless Search – Control – ‘Purse Exception’

Stephanie Maniscalco//January 13, 2016//

Listen to this article

Where a police officer after a scuffle searched a plastic bag that a defendant was holding after he was handcuffed and seated in a police car, the search of the bag, which contained heroin, was not a lawful search incident to arrest because the bag was not within the man’s immediate control at the time of the search, but the evidence did not need to be excluded since appellate court authority allowed the search.


Purse exception

“A major source of the court of appeals’ misunderstanding regarding this well-established rule appears to be based on language taken out of context from United States v. Edwards, in which the Supreme Court stated, ‘It is also plain that searches and seizures that could be made on the spot at the time of arrest may legally be conducted later when the accused arrives at the place of detention.’  415 U.S. 800, 803 (1974). This broad statement that the court of appeals has relied upon was only dicta….

“It is not that these items may be searched because they are part of the person; rather, they may be searched because they are within the arrestee’s immediate control. When that fact is no longer true, they may not be searched incident to arrest because the justifications for conducting such a search no longer persist. Gant, 556 U.S. at 339; Chadwick, 433 U.S. at 15. The court of appeals’ distinction for purses and other similar personal effects is not consistent with Supreme Court precedent.”


Time of arrest

Concurring opinion by Wilson, J.: “

Because the bag was in Carrawell’s immediate possession and seized at the time of the arrest, the search was a lawful search incident to arrest under Robinson. On this basis, I would affirm the circuit court’s judgment.”


Exclusionary rule

Opinion concurring and dissenting in part by Teitelman, J.: “I concur with the principal opinion to the extent it holds that the search was unlawful because it occurred while Mr. Carrawell’s belongings were beyond his immediate control. I respectfully dissent from the principal opinion’s holding that the exclusionary rule does not apply….

“Given the overwhelming weight of authority holding that searches such as the one conducted in this case are illegal, the exclusionary rule should apply. The exclusionary rule incentivizes the government to exercise its considerable authority with due regard for constitutionally protected individual rights. If the government can justify illegal searches by parsing through volumes of court of appeals cases until locating an erroneously decided case supporting the desired result, then the incentives provided by the exclusionary rule are diluted.”

Judgment is affirmed.

State v. Carrawell (MLW No. 68669/Case No. SC94927 – 38 pages) (Fischer, J.; Stith, and Draper, JJ., concur; Wilson, J., concurs in separate opinion filed; Breckenridge, C.J., and Russell, J., concur in opinion of Wilson, J.; Teitelman, J., concurs in part and dissents in part in separate opinion filed) Appealed from circuit court, St. Louis City, Ohmer, J. (Srikant Chigurupati, St. Louis, for appellant) (Shaun J. Mackelprang, Jefferson City, for respondent).

Read the full text of this opinion. (PDF)

Latest Opinion Digests

See all digests

Top stories

See more news