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An Alford Plea Is Still a Guilty Plea

In State v. Herndon, the supreme court held that the circuit court could impose a lifetime sex offender registration requirement when Herndon would not admit he was guilty of sexual conduct with a minor, which was required in sex abuse counseling, where the Alford plea deal required him to successfully complete sex abuse counseling or face lifetime sex offender registration. Continue reading

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You’re Not “Intoxicated” if You Stopped Using Drugs and Alcohol the Night Before

Sigmon v. State is a gruesome case of murder and kidnap; Sigmon was convicted and sentenced to death for killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents.  Sigman and Becky Larke were in a relationship for about three years, until Becky told Sigmon that she did not want to see him anymore.  He believed she started seeing someone else, and he began stalking her to figure out if she was seeing someone.  About a week after Becky broke up the relationship, Sigmon planned to kidnap her.  He smoked crack cocaine and drank alcohol with a friend in Becky’s trailer, and he told his friend that he planned on kidnapping her and disappearing with her the following day.  Continue reading

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The Court Will Not Issue Advisory Opinions When There Is No Actual Dispute

In Tourism Expenditure Review Committee v. City of Myrtle Beach, the supreme court refused to decide a case for want of subject matter jurisdiction when there was no tax dispute between the City of Myrtle Beach and the Tourism Expenditure Review Committee (TERC).

The South Carolina Accommodations Tax imposes a 7% tax on all sleeping accommodation provided to overnight guests.  The 7% includes a 2% “local accommodations tax” which is remitted to the counties and municipalities where it is collected. The local accommodations tax (The Tax) is what is at issue in this dispute. Continue reading

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James Brown’s Family Does Not Feel Good

In Wilson v. Dallas, the supreme court reversed the circuit court’s approval of a settlement reached by James Brown’s family members—some specifically excluded from a share of his estate—and the attorney general.

James Brown (The Godfather of Soul) died in 2006, leaving an estate valued anywhere from $5 million to over $100 million.  Prior to his death, Brown had planned how his estate should be administered. Continue reading

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“Look! No Hands!” Autonomous Vehicles in South Carolina?

The General Assembly is considering allowing autonomous vehicle manufacturers to test drive their vehicles in South Carolina.  This bill would require autonomous vehicle manufacturers to receive a permit from the State before testing their vehicles, and it does not allow for consumer use of autonomous vehicles.

Although this bill is a small step, autonomous vehicles do raise many new legal questions.  In years to come, autonomous technology will become a reality.  The traditional legal framework for vehicles will need to change because the driver—in the traditional sense—is not operating the vehicle; thus, holding the traditional driver liable for accidents caused by the computer in the vehicle may not be just. Continue reading

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The Court Won’t Force Someone to Do Something He Has Already Done

In South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission v. Loftis, the supreme court unanimously held that once Curtis Loftis, custodian of the South Carolina Retirement Systems Group Trust, performed the act sought in the petition for the writ of mandamus, it is “impossible for this Court to issue a writ of mandamus compelling Loftis to perform the act in question.”  Continue reading

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A Lay Witness Cannot Give an Expert Opinion

In In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Thomas S., the supreme court reversed a determination that Thomas S. was a sexual violent predator because the only evidence to prove he was a sexual violent predator was from a lay witness who had no first-hand knowledge.

Thomas was convicted at the age of ten for engaging in oral and anal sex and fondling with a six year old.  He was sentenced to the Department of Juvenile Justice for an undetermined period not to exceed his twenty-first birthday.  In 2008, the Juvenile Board determined he was eligible for release, which triggered review under the Sexual Violent Predator Act (SVP Act).  Continue reading

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If She Wanted the Lighter Sentence, She Should Have Waited a Few Months Before Committing Her Crime

In State v. Dawson, the supreme court held that the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act of 2010 does not apply to crimes committed prior to the date it became effective.

While working at Wal-Mart in October 2009, Dawson was observed making false refunds to an accomplice.  She confessed to defrauding Wal-Mart, and she indicated that she received $1,171.55 of the $5,000 misappropriated.  On June 2, 2011, she entered a guilty plea. Continue reading

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