January 9, 2013 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinions

State v Taylor

Acting on a tip that an African American male on a bicycle may be dealing drugs on a certain street, police went to the street to investigate. They observed Taylor on a bike near another man. Smith attempted to flee from the scene. He was tackled and the detaining officer felt a bulge in Smith’s pocket. Fearing it was a weapon, the officer forced it onto the ground. He then picked up the item (a tennis ball with a slit on the top) and looked into it and saw crack cocaine. Smith moved to suppress the drugs which the trail court denied. The Court of Appeals reversed evaluating each factor cited for reasonable suspicion and finding g each inadequate alone to justify the stop. The Court, 3-2, reversed. Applying a totality of the circumstances analysis, the majority held that the tip, the high crime area, the men close together, officer experience and the flight provided reasonable suspicion that a drug deal was imminent. It also held that picking up the tennis ball was allowed as it could have contained a razor or other weapon. Also, the force necessary to lift the ball was also the force which revealed the contents inside. One judge dissented arguing that two black men holding a conversation does not justify a stop even in a high crime neighborhood. This justice denounced the majority for eviscerating the protections against unreasonable seizures. Another justice agreed that the circumstances justified a stop and pat down, but, argued that once the officer realized the item was a tennis ball and not a firearm or other weapon, he lacked authority to look inside. Thus, this justice would have affirmed.

Dunes West Golf Club LLC v Town of Mount Pleasant

Town changed its zoning ordinance to ban residential development of golf courses. Dunes presented two separate petitions to rezone a portion of the course to allow residences. It withdrew one and the other was denied because of required changes in the golf course, public opposition and a general lack of detail in the petition. The Court unanimously affirmed. It held that town did not violate equal protection by granting another petition to develop as the other plan was detailed, involved contiguous property, did not require changes to the golf course and was supported by the public. It held there was no due process violation as zoning status is not a protected property interest, the new plan advanced the town’s interest in open spaces and recreational activities and the zoning regime applied equally to all golf courses not just Dunes. The court also found there was no taking as the protected property interest was running a golf course and Dunes can still do that; the current resections may change in the future; any decrease in value of the course was outweighed by the public interests advanced by the new regime; and, there was no evidence Dunes undertook any investments based on the prior zoning regime.

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