Today’s Decision by the South Carolina Court of Appeals


Today, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published two decisions: State v. King and State v. Bush.

In State v. King, Rakeem King appeals his convictions for attempted murder, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

The Court found that the trial court erred by (1) charging the jury that a specific intent to kill is not an element of attempted murder and (2) allowing hearsay testimony as to the number of shots King fired. The Court agreed that although these errors require reversal of King’s conviction for attempted murder that the trial courts errors caused King no prejudice as to his convictions for armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Accordingly, the Court affirmed those convictions and remanded for a new trial for attempted murder.

In State v. Bush, the State appealed the circuit courts decision granting Walter Bash’s motion to suppress drug evidence relating to charges against him for trafficking in cocaine.  Police officers were lead to the area where Bash’s truck was following an anonymous tip. They  drove to the property and turned onto a public road beside the house. There they observed Bash’s truck parked there and several people in a grassy area outside of the fenced in area. When Bash’s truck was approached one of the officer looked through the window of Bash’s truck to ensure no other occupants were hiding and saw scales and a large plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance. At trial, Bash moved to suppress the drug evidence found in his vehicle arguing that officers entered and search the curtilage of the property without a warrant or meeting an exception. The circuit court granted Bash’s motion and the State appealed.

In line with the reasonableness approach, the Fourth Circuit has permitted law enforcement officers to enter a person’s backyard without a warrant when they have a legitimate law enforcement purpose for doing so. An officer may bypass the front door ot other entry point when circumstances reasonably indicate that the office might find the homeowner elsewhere on the property. The Court found that the circuit court erred in considering the officers’ subjective intent into its analysis.  While the circuit court may have found the officers’ underlying the intent was to search the premises, that intent is not impermissible provided the officers had a reasonably objective basis for their actual conduct. The Court found that the police officer entered the grassy area because they saw several individuals there, they exited their vehicles, and they began to speak to the individuals based on an anonymous tip. Thus the Court reversed  the circuit court’s finding the initial police entry onto the property violated the Fourth Amendment and remanded the case for trial in the circuit court.

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