City of Rock Hill v. Harris, No. 26917.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtChief Justice TOAL.
Citation705 S.E.2d 53,391 S.C. 149
PartiesCITY OF ROCK HILL, Respondent,v.Tyler M. HARRIS, Appellant.
Decision Date24 January 2011
Docket NumberNo. 26917.

391 S.C. 149
705 S.E.2d 53

CITY OF ROCK HILL, Respondent,
v.
Tyler M. HARRIS, Appellant.

No. 26917.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard Sept. 21, 2010.Decided Jan. 24, 2011.


[705 S.E.2d 54]

Bobby G. Frederick and Laura L. Hiller, both of Myrtle Beach, for Appellant.Solicitor Paula Knox Brown, of Rock Hill, for Respondent.Chief Justice TOAL.

[391 S.C. 152] In this case, Tyler M. Harris (Appellant) claims that section 20–7–8920 of the South Carolina Code, now section 63–19–2440 (hereinafter section 63–19–2440), is unconstitutional because it conflicts with Article XVII, section 14 of the South Carolina Constitution. Section 63–19–2440 makes it illegal for persons under the age of twenty-one to “consume, or knowingly possess beer, ale, porter, wine, or other similar malt or fermented beverage.” Article XVII, section 14 of the our Constitution deems citizens over eighteen to have full legal rights and responsibilities, with the sole exception that the General Assembly may restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons until the age of twenty-one. We construe the term “sale” broadly and therefore affirm Appellant's conviction.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On October 10, 2007, Appellant was a rear passenger in a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation in the city of Rock Hill, South Carolina. After admitting to the officer that he had consumed two beers, Appellant, who was then twenty years old, was cited for possession of beer under twenty-one, pursuant to section 20–7–8920, and for public disorderly conduct.

The municipal court convicted Appellant of the possession charge. Appellant thereafter appealed his conviction to the circuit court, arguing three grounds: (1) the city of Rock Hill failed to prove jurisdiction over the matter, (2) beer is not an alcoholic beverage as defined by the statute, and (3) the statute under which Appellant was convicted is unconstitutional. The circuit court affirmed the conviction. Appellant then filed a timely appeal to the court of appeals. This case is before this Court under Rule 204(b), SCACR. Appellant preserves only the constitutional issue in this appeal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

An issue regarding statutory interpretation is a question of law. Jeter v. S.C. Dept. of Transp., 369 S.C. 433, 438, 633 S.E.2d 143, 146 (2006). In a case raising a novel question of law, the appellate court is free to decide the question with no particular deference to the lower court. [391 S.C. 153] Ex parte Capital U–Drive–It, Inc., 369 S.C. 1, 6, 630 S.E.2d 464, 467 (2006); Hagood v. Sommerville, 362 S.C. 191, 194, 607 S.E.2d 707, 708 (2005).

LAW/ANALYSIS
I. Construction of Article XVII, section 14 of the South Carolina Constitution

Appellant argues that section 63–19–2440 of the South Carolina Code conflicts with Article XVII, section 14 of the South Carolina Constitution because the statute restricts more than the sale of alcoholic beverages to eighteen to twenty year olds by also restricting their possession and consumption. We disagree.

A. Applicable Law

An amendment to the South Carolina Constitution originates by proposal before the General Assembly and, if passed by two-thirds vote in each House, is then submitted to the people of South Carolina in the next general election. S.C. Const. art. XVI, § 1. If the electorate votes in favor of the amendment, the General Assembly makes the final decision as to its ratification by securing a simple majority vote in each House. Id.

When this Court is called to interpret our Constitution, it is guided by the principle that both the citizenry and the General Assembly have worked to create the governing law. See Miller v. Farr, 243 S.C. 342, 133 S.E.2d 838, 841 (1963) (stating that the Court's efforts in construing the South

[705 S.E.2d 55]

Carolina Constitution are aimed at assessing the intent of its framers and the people who adopted it). Therefore, the Court will look at the “ordinary and popular meaning of the words used,” Richardson v. Town of Mount Pleasant, 350 S.C. 291, 294, 566 S.E.2d 523, 525 (2002), keeping in mind that amendments to our Constitution become effective largely through the legislative process. Miller v. Farr, 243 S.C. 342, 347, 133 S.E.2d 838, 841 (1963). For this reason, “the Court applies rules similar to those relating to the construction of statutes” to arrive at the ultimate goal of deriving the intent of those who adopted it. Id.

[391 S.C. 154] In determining whether a statute complies with the South Carolina Constitution, the Court will, if possible,

construe[ ] [the statute] so as to render it valid; every presumption will be made in favor of the constitutionality of a legislative enactment; and a statute will be declared unconstitutional only when its invalidity appears so clearly as to leave no room for reasonable doubt that it violates some provision of the Constitution.

Moseley v. Welch, 209 S.C. 19, 26–27, 39 S.E.2d 133, 137 (1946).

The power of our state legislature is plenary, and therefore, the authority given to the General Assembly by our Constitution is a limitation of legislative power, not a grant. Id. at 26, 39 S.E.2d at 137. This means that “the General Assembly may enact any law not expressly, or by clear implication, prohibited by the State or Federal Constitutions....” Id. At the same time, when determining the effect of statutory language, “the canon of construction ‘ expressio unius est exclusio alterius ’ or ‘ inclusio unius exclusio alterius ’ holds that ‘to express or include one thing implies the exclusion of another, or the alternative.’ ” State v. Bolin, 378 S.C. 96, 100, 662 S.E.2d 38, 40 (2008) (quoting Hodges v. Rainey, 341 S.C. 79, 533 S.E.2d 578 (2000)).

Absent ambiguity, the court will look to the plain meaning of the words used to determine their effect. Hodges, 341 S.C. at 85, 533 S.E.2d at 581. However, the plain meaning rule is subject to this caveat:

However plain the ordinary meaning of the...

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14 practice notes
  • Retail Servs. & Sys., Inc. v. S.C. Dep't of Revenue, Appellate Case No. 2014-002728
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 29, 2017
    ...We sit only in judgment of a statute's conformity with, or repugnance to, the constitution. See, e.g. , City of Rock Hill v. Harris , 391 S.C. 149, 154, 705 S.E.2d 53, 55 (2011) ("The power of our state legislature is plenary, and therefore, the authority given to the General Assembly by ou......
  • S.C. Human Affairs Comm'n v. Zeyi Chen, Appellate Case No. 2018-001879
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 22, 2020
    ...proper deference to the agency's interpretation before issuing multiple protection orders. See generally City of Rock Hill v. Harris , 391 S.C. 149, 152, 705 S.E.2d 53, 54 (2011) ("An issue 430 S.C. 528 regarding statutory interpretation is a question of law."); Kiawah Dev. Partners, II v. ......
  • State v. Whitner, No. 27142.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 11, 2012
    ...Absent an ambiguity, the court will look to the plain meaning of the words used to determine their effect. City of Rock Hill v. Harris, 391 S.C. 149, 155, 705 S.E.2d 53, 55 (2011). “Under general rules of statutory construction, a jurisdiction adopting legislation from another jurisdiction ......
  • Cfre Llc v. Greenville County Assessor, No. 27032.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 29, 2011
    ...interpretation are questions of law, which we are free to decide without any deference to the court below. City of Rock Hill v. Harris, 391 S.C. 149, 152, 705 S.E.2d 53, 54 (2011). “The cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the legislature.” ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Retail Servs. & Sys., Inc. v. S.C. Dep't of Revenue, Appellate Case No. 2014-002728
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 29, 2017
    ...We sit only in judgment of a statute's conformity with, or repugnance to, the constitution. See, e.g. , City of Rock Hill v. Harris , 391 S.C. 149, 154, 705 S.E.2d 53, 55 (2011) ("The power of our state legislature is plenary, and therefore, the authority given to the General Assembly by ou......
  • S.C. Human Affairs Comm'n v. Zeyi Chen, Appellate Case No. 2018-001879
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 22, 2020
    ...proper deference to the agency's interpretation before issuing multiple protection orders. See generally City of Rock Hill v. Harris , 391 S.C. 149, 152, 705 S.E.2d 53, 54 (2011) ("An issue 430 S.C. 528 regarding statutory interpretation is a question of law."); Kiawah Dev. Partners, II v. ......
  • State v. Whitner, No. 27142.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 11, 2012
    ...Absent an ambiguity, the court will look to the plain meaning of the words used to determine their effect. City of Rock Hill v. Harris, 391 S.C. 149, 155, 705 S.E.2d 53, 55 (2011). “Under general rules of statutory construction, a jurisdiction adopting legislation from another jurisdiction ......
  • Cfre Llc v. Greenville County Assessor, No. 27032.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 29, 2011
    ...interpretation are questions of law, which we are free to decide without any deference to the court below. City of Rock Hill v. Harris, 391 S.C. 149, 152, 705 S.E.2d 53, 54 (2011). “The cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the legislature.” ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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