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School of Law


South Carolina Cases

Holdings of South Carolina core foundation cases are provided below with links to the cases in full. 

Child Protection and Permanency

Incarcerated Parent

S.C. Department of Social Services v. Wilson, 543 S.E.2d 580 (S.C. Ct. App. 2001). Terminating the parental rights of an incarcerated parent requires consideration of all surrounding facts and circumstances in the determination of wilfulness. The voluntary pursuit of lawless behavior is one factor which may be considered, but generally is not determinative.

Criminal Prosecution of Child Abuse

Homicide by Child Abuse, Fetus

State v. McKnight, 661 S.E.2d 354 (S.C. 2008). Reversed on other grounds 378 S.C. 33, 661 S.E.2d 354 (2008). Mother’s conviction of homicide by child abuse upheld where autopsy of fetus showed presence of a metabolite of cocaine and evidence showed cocaine metabolite could have been in child’s body only through ingestion of cocaine by mother during pregnancy.

Jurisdiction

Beaufort County Dept. of Soc. Serv. v. Strahan, 426 S.E.2d 331 (S.C. Ct. App. 1992). Court held that a criminal indictment does not deprive the family court of jurisdiction over cases involving the same factual situations where the family court is exercising its civil jurisdiction under the Children’s Code.

Lyle Evidence: Prior Bad Acts

State v. Lyle, 118 S.E. 803 (S.C. 1923). Court held that evidence of other crimes is competent to prove a specific crime charged when it establishes: motive; intent; absence of mistake or accident; a common scheme of plan; and identify of the person charged with the commission of the crime charged.

State v. Wallace, 683 S.E.2d 275 (S.C. 2009). Case sets forth the test for admission of common scheme or plan evidence. First, the court determines the relevance of the evidence. Next the court analyzes the similarities and dissimilarities between the crime charged and the bad act evidence to determine whether there is a close degree of similarity. When the similarities outweigh the dissimilarities, the bad act evidence is admissible. Finally, the court assesses the evidence to ensure that probative value is not exceeded by prejudicial effect. 

Rape Trauma Evidence

State v. Schumpert, 435 S.E.2d 859 (S.C. 1993). Court held that both expert testimony and behavioral evidence are admissible as rape trauma evidence to prove a sexual offense occurred where the probative value of such evidence outweighs the prejudicial effect.

Scientific Evidence

State v. Council, 515 S.E.2d 508 (S.C. 1999). Court affirmed trial court’s admission of DNA test results offered through FBI laboratory employee. Court did not adopt Daubert but set forth the test under the SC Rules of Evidence for admission of scientific evidence: the publications and peer review of the technique; prior application of the method to the type of evidence involved in the case; the quality control procedures used to ensure reliability; and the consistency of the method with recognized scientific laws and procedures.

Sex Offender Registry

Hendrix v. Taylor, 579 S.E.2d 320 (S.C. 2003). Court rejected both equal protection and due process challenges to requirement that appellant register as a sex offender in SC based on criminal convictions in Colorado which would have required registration under SC sex offender registry statute. 

Sex Offender Registry;  Juvenile

In re Ronnie A., 585 S.E.2d 311 (S.C. 2003). Court found that registration of juvenile as a sex offender was not punitive and the juvenile’s due process liberty interests were thus not implicated by the requirement to register. The court further found no harm to the juvenile’s reputation because, based on the juvenile’s age, the registry information was not available to the public. 

Unlawful Conduct Toward Child; Viable Fetus

Whitner v. State, 492 S.E.2d 777 (S.C. 1997). The court held that “child,” for the purposes of the unlawful conduct towards a child statute, includes a viable fetus.

Juvenile Justice

No Age Limit

In the Matter of Skinner, 249 S.E.2d 746 (S.C. 1978). The common law presumption that a child between the ages of 7 and 14 is rebuttably presumed incapable of committing a crime is inapplicable to family court proceedings. The practical effect is that there is no age limit for bringing a delinquency proceeding in family court.

Juvenile Record

State v. Sparkman, 339 S.E. 2d 865 (S.C. 1986). A person’s juvenile record may be used in a subsequent court proceeding to impeach the person, as a defendant or witness, and at sentencing.

Media and the Press

Ex parte Columbia Newspapers, Inc., 333 S.E.2d 337 (S.C. 1985). Family court proceedings are open to the press unless the judge makes a specific finding justifying closure.

Sex Offender Registry

In re Ronnie A., 585 S.E.2d 311 (S.C. 2003). Court found that registration of juvenile as a sex offender was not punitive and the juvenile’s due process liberty interests were thus not implicated by the requirement to register. The court further found no harm to the juvenile’s reputation because, based on the juvenile’s age, the registry information was not available to the public. 

Statment Voluntariness and Admissibility

In re Williams, 217 S.E.2d 719 (S.C. 1975). The absence of a parent, counsel, or other friendly adult does not make a statement given by a child to the police inadmissible.  The admissibility of a statement given by a minor is based upon the “totality of the circumstances” to include such factors as age, intelligence, education, experience, and ability to comprehend the meaning and effect of the statement.

In the Interest of Christopher W., 329 S.E.2d 769 (S.C. 1985). The voluntariness of a minor's inculpatory statement must be proved by preponderance of evidence.     

Waiver

State v. McCoy, 328 S.E.2d 620 (S.C. 1985). Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) (failure to provide defense exculpatory evidence in prosecution’s possession is a due process violation) does not apply in a waiver hearing.