City of Camden v. Brassell, No. 2658

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtANDERSON; HOWELL, C.J., and GOOLSBY
Citation326 S.C. 556,486 S.E.2d 492
PartiesCITY OF CAMDEN, Appellant, v. Evander M. BRASSELL, Respondent. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 2658
Decision Date09 April 1997

Page 492

486 S.E.2d 492
326 S.C. 556
CITY OF CAMDEN, Appellant,
v.
Evander M. BRASSELL, Respondent.
No. 2658.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard April 9, 1997.
Decided April 21, 1997.

Page 493

[326 S.C. 558] Charles V.B. Cushman, III, Camden, for Appellant.

[326 S.C. 559] W. Glenn Rogers, Jr., Camden, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, Judge.

The City of Camden (Camden) appeals from the circuit court's order reversing Evander M. Brassell's (Brassell) conviction in

Page 494

municipal court for driving under the influence, first offense. We reverse.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Brassell was charged with driving under the influence, first offense, in the City of Camden on August 27, 1995. At the time of his arrest, Brassell was sixteen years old. Brassell was convicted of driving under the influence, first offense, in the Camden Municipal Court. He appealed his conviction to the circuit court. On appeal, Brassell contended the municipal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear a driving under the influence charge against a juvenile. The circuit court reversed Brassell's conviction and held driving under the influence was not a "traffic violation" within the meaning of S.C.Code Ann. § 20-7-410 (Supp.1996). The court further held the family court had exclusive jurisdiction over the charge against the juvenile. The City of Camden appeals.

ISSUE

Is driving under the influence, first offense, a "traffic violation" within the purview of S.C.Code Ann. § 20-7-410 (Supp.1996)?

LAW/ANALYSIS

The City of Camden argues the trial court erred in construing driving under the influence as a criminal violation rather than a "traffic violation" within the parameters of S.C.Code Ann. § 20-7-410 (Supp.1996).

Ab initio, even though the issue in this case is imbued with simplicity, it is novel in South Carolina. For guidance, we examine the applicable statutes with circumspection giving due deference to the legislative will. Predominantly, the Court analyzes the statutory language so as to glean the legislative intent.

[326 S.C. 560] STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION

The cardinal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and effectuate the legislative intent whenever possible. Joint Legislative Comm. v. Huff, et al., 320 S.C. 241, 464 S.E.2d 324 (1995). See also Glover by Cauthen v. Suitt Constr. Co., 318 S.C. 465, 458 S.E.2d 535 (1995) (primary rule of statutory construction requires that legislative intent prevail if it can reasonably be discovered in language used construed in light of intended purpose). All rules of statutory construction are subservient to the one that legislative intent must prevail if it reasonably can be discovered in the language used, and that language must be construed in the light of the intended purpose of the statute. Kiriakides v. United Artists Communications, Inc., 312 S.C. 271, 440 S.E.2d 364 (1994). The determination of legislative intent is a matter of law. Charleston County Parks & Recreation Comm'n v. Somers, 319 S.C. 65, 459 S.E.2d 841 (1995).

South Carolina Code Ann. § 2-13-175 (Supp.1996) is controlling in regard to catch line headings or captions of statutes. This legislative provision provides:

The catch line heading or caption which immediately follows the section number of any section of the Code of Laws must not be deemed to be part of the section and must not be used to construe the section more broadly or narrowly than the text of the section would indicate. The catch line or caption is not part of the law and is merely inserted for purposes of convenience to the person using the Code.

Where the legislature elects not to define the term in the statute, courts will interpret the term in accord with its usual and customary meaning. Adoptive Parents v. Biological Parents, 315 S.C. 535, 446 S.E.2d 404 (1994). In construing a statute, the court looks to its language as a whole in light of its manifest purpose. Adams v. Texfi Indus., 320 S.C. 213, 464 S.E.2d 109 (1995).

If a statute's language is plain and unambiguous, and conveys a clear and definite meaning, there is no occasion for employing rules of statutory interpretation and the court has no right to look for or impose another meaning. City of Columbia v. American Civil Liberties Union, 323 S.C. 384, 475 S.E.2d 747 (1996). Where a statute is complete, plain, and [326 S.C. 561] unambiguous, legislative intent must be determined from the language of the statute itself. Whitner v. State, Op. No. 24468, --- S.C. ----, ----, ---

Page 495

S.E.2d ----, ---- (S.C. Sup.Ct. filed July 15, 1996) (Davis Adv.Sh. No. 19 at 22). In construing a statute, its words must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced construction to limit or expand the statute's operation. Adkins v. Comcar Indus., Inc., 323 S.C. 409, 475 S.E.2d 762 (1996). Where the terms of a statute are clear, the court must apply those terms according to their literal meaning. Id. See also Parsons v. Georgetown Steel, 318 S.C. 63, 456 S.E.2d 366 (1995) (where terms of relevant statute are clear, there is no room for construction). Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute and inject matters into it which are not in the legislature's language. Timmons v. Tricentennial Comm'n, 254 S.C. 378, 175 S.E.2d 805 (1970).

The statute as a whole must receive practical, reasonable, and fair interpretation consonant with the purpose, design, and policy of lawmakers. Rosenbaum v. S-M-S 32, 311 S.C. 140, 427 S.E.2d 897 (1993). See also Whitner, supra (Court should consider not merely language of particular clause being construed, but word and its meaning in conjunction with purpose of whole statute and policy of law). In interpreting a statute, the language of the statute must be read in a sense which harmonizes with its subject matter and accords with its general purpose. Koenig v. South Carolina Dep't of Pub. Safety, --- S.C. ----, 480 S.E.2d 98 (Ct.App.1996). Any ambiguity in a statute should be resolved in favor of a just, equitable, and beneficial operation of the law. Bennett v. Sullivan's Island Bd. of Adjustment, 313 S.C. 455, 438 S.E.2d 273 (Ct.App.1993).

APPLICABLE STATUTES

South Carolina Code Ann. § 20-7-400(A)(1)(d) (1985 and Supp.1996) grants exclusive original jurisdiction to the family court in pertinent part as follows:

(A) Except as otherwise provided herein, the court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction and shall be the sole court for initiating action:

(1) Concerning any child living or found within the geographical limits of its jurisdiction:

[326 S.C. 562] (d) Who is alleged to have violated or attempted to violate any state or local law or municipal ordinance, regardless of where the violation occurred except as...

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38 practice notes
  • Thompson ex rel. Harvey v. Cisson Const., No. 4339.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 1, 2008
    ...292, 298 (2003); Paschal v. State Election Comm'n, 317 S.C. 434, 436, 454 S.E.2d 890, 892 (1995); see also City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute an......
  • Bass v. Isochem, No. 3996.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 6, 2005
    ...361, 585 S.E.2d 292 (2003); Paschal v. State Election Comm'n, 317 S.C. 434, 454 S.E.2d 890 (1995); see also City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute a......
  • State v. Brannon, No. 4428.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • July 18, 2008
    ...the rule that it is not the court's place to change the meaning of a clear and unambiguous statute. See City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute and i......
  • Grinnell Corp. v. Wood, No. 4355.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 11, 2008
    ...292, 298 (2003); Paschal v. State Election Comm'n, 317 S.C. 434, 436, 454 S.E.2d 890, 892 (1995); see also City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • Thompson ex rel. Harvey v. Cisson Const., No. 4339.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 1, 2008
    ...292, 298 (2003); Paschal v. State Election Comm'n, 317 S.C. 434, 436, 454 S.E.2d 890, 892 (1995); see also City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute an......
  • Bass v. Isochem, No. 3996.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 6, 2005
    ...361, 585 S.E.2d 292 (2003); Paschal v. State Election Comm'n, 317 S.C. 434, 454 S.E.2d 890 (1995); see also City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute a......
  • State v. Brannon, No. 4428.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • July 18, 2008
    ...the rule that it is not the court's place to change the meaning of a clear and unambiguous statute. See City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute and i......
  • Grinnell Corp. v. Wood, No. 4355.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 11, 2008
    ...292, 298 (2003); Paschal v. State Election Comm'n, 317 S.C. 434, 436, 454 S.E.2d 890, 892 (1995); see also City of Camden v. Brassell, 326 S.C. 556, 561, 486 S.E.2d 492, 495 (Ct.App.1997) ("Where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, the court cannot rewrite the statute an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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