Prosser v. Parsons

Decision Date02 April 1965
Docket NumberNo. 18327,18327
Citation141 S.E.2d 342,245 S.C. 493
PartiesBoyd O. PROSSER, Respondent, v. M. O. PARSONS, Appellant.
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Smith & Moore, C. C. Grimes, Jr., Georgetown, Atty. Gen., Daniel R. McLeod, Asst. Atty. Gen., Julian L. Johnson, Columbia, for appellant.

Arthur L. King, Georgetown, for respondent.

TAYLOR, Chief, Justice.

The plaintiff, Boyd O. Prosser, recovered judgment for actual damages against the defendant, M. O. Parsons, during the January Term of Common Pleas Court for Georgetown County. The complaint sets forth three causes of action: One for false imprisonment, a second for malicious prosecution, and a third for conversion of plaintiff's automobile. Timely motions for nonsuit, directed verdict, judgment n. o. v. or in the alternative for a new trial were made by defendant and denied by the trial Judge. This appeal followed.

In substance the first cause of action of the complaint alleges that on October 31, 1962, plaintiff, while parked and sitting in his automobile on the side of a highway, was required by the defendant, while armed with a pistol, to get out of plaintiff's automobile and enter a vehicle then under the control of defendant, thereby falsely imprisoning and depriving plaintiff of his liberty for a period of time.

It is alleged in the second cause of action that defendant, with malicious intent, did cause a magistrate for Georgetown County to issue a warrant and thereby initiated criminal proceedings against plaintiff. The warrant was presented to a Grand Jury which returned a 'No Bill.' It is then alleged that defendant caused a second warrant to be issued based upon identical facts, which upon presentment to the Grand Jury was also returned 'No Bill.'

In the third cause of action, it is alleged that defendant, while armed with a pistol, required plaintiff to surrender up his 1958 Ford, thereby depriving plaintiff of the use of said automobile for a period of 113 days.

The answer of defendant consisted of a general denial and as a defense to the first cause of action, alleged defendant was a duly appointed Game Warden and engaged in the performance of his official duties on October 31, 1962; that plaintiff and another were seen in the act of hunting from plaintiff's automobile with the aid of flashlights, guns and other night hunting equipment; and it was under these circumstances that defendant placed plaintiff under arrest.

As to the second cause of action, it is alleged that defendant acted in good faith and that prior to serving the warrant, the circumstances connected with the transaction were discussed with the Circuit Solicitor who advised him to have the second warrant issued.

As to the third cause of action, defendant denies all allegations except that he did take from plaintiff his 1958 Ford automobile.

In determining whether the trial Judge erred in refusing to grant defendant's motions for a nonsuit and a directed verdict, we must review the evidence and the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to plaintiff.

It is undisputed that plaintiff was arrested by defendant at approximately 1:30 A.M. on October 31, 1962, and taken to the Georgetown jail. That morning defendant went to a Magistrate and procured a warrant charging plaintiff with violating Section 28-302, Code of Laws of South Carolina, which reads as follows: 'There shall be no night hunting in this State except for raccoons, opossums, foxes, mink and skunk, and these may not be hunted with lights, commonly known as 'head lights,' attached to the head or otherwise attached to the body. The penalty for any violation of this section shall be a fine not exceeding two hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding sixty days.'

Plaintiff contends that his arrest was unlawful. He testified that after leaving work at 11 P.M. from the International Paper Co. plant at Georgetown, S. C., he, together with one Jerry Lambert, proceeded toward Pawley's Island to see if the fishing was good. However, before reaching their intended destination it was decided to return to Georgetown. As he proceeded south on U. S. 17, plaintiff noticed a car go out of control rounding a curve and turned around to investigate. The car appearing to be all right, plaintiff proceeded north on U. S. 17 until he reached a convenient place to turn around. After once again proceeding in a southerly direction, he stopped at a litter deposit beside the road to dump some trash. Shortly thereafter, his car was blocked by automobiles belonging to the Game Wardens. His arrest then followed. Plaintiff admitted that he had 2 flashlights in the car, one of the type that is attached to the car's cigarette lighter and operates from the car's battery, and that as he drove up and down the highway, Lambert, on occasion, would shine the lights out of the car. Plaintiff admitted having with him a shotgun loaded with buckshot.

The essence of the tort of false imprisonment consists in depriving plaintiff of his liberty without lawful justification, and if the restraint or imprisonment complained of is lawful, the action fails. Thomas v. Colonial Stores, Inc., 236 S.C. 95, 113 S.E.2d 337. The legality of an arrest without warrant does not depend on the final results of the charge on which the arrest was made. 5 Am.Jur. (2d), Arrest, Section 22.

The defendant here is a Game Warden appointed by the South Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission as provided by Chapter 2, Article 2 of Title 28, Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1962. Section 28-140 of the Code states that Game Wardens 'shall possess and exercise all of the power and authorities held and exercised by the constable at common law and under the statutes of this State.'

At common law sheriffs, constables, and other peace officers had the power and authority to arrest without warrant felons or persons reasonably suspected of having committed a felony and also those who had committed a misdemeanor in his presence which amounted to a breach of the peace. 5 Am.Jur. (2d), Arrest, Sec. 24, et seq. See State v. Williams, 237 S.C. 252, 116 S.E.2d 858. By virtue of Sec. 17-253, Code of 1962, this principle is now applicable to any violation of the criminal laws of this State committed within the view of such an officer. A Game Warden, therefore, has the power and authority to arrest any person without warrant for an offense committed in his presence.

Violation of Section 28-302 of the Code is a misdemeanor; therefore, under our decisions, in order for defendant to have lawfully arrested plaintiff, the alleged violation of the above section of the Code must have occurred in the presence of defendant. See Percival v. Bailey, 70 S.C. 72 49 S.E. 7; State v. Randall, 118 S.C. 158, 110 S.E. 123; Shipman v. Du Pre, 222 S.C. 475, 73 S.E.2d 716; State v. Williams, 237 S.C. 252, 116 S.E.2d 858.

Testimony on behalf of defendant revealed that, as the result of information, approximately ten State Game Wardens were positioned along U. S. Highway 17 in Georgetown County where deer were known to abound. At approximately 1:30 A.M., plaintiff's car was observed by some of the officers, but not defendant, traveling at a slow rate of speed to and fro along the highway with a light shining therefrom at angles into the woods. At one time when another car approached, plaintiff's car pulled over and slowed down and the occupants stopped shining the lights; however, once the other automobile had passed, they again started to shine the lights into the woods. The Game Wardens had two-way radios and were keeping each other informed of what occurred. Defendant, upon receiving certain information over his radio, left his stake-out position and proceeded in the direction of plaintiff. When he arrived, plaintiff parked his car on the side of the highway and was osberved to have a shotgun loaded with buckshot, together with 2 flashlights, one of the type with a wire attached to the cigarette lighter.

Defendant testified that he arrested plaintiff for night hunting on the basis of the information he had received from the other Game Wardens together with what information he has personally observed.

'If an officer does not know of the acts constituting an offense, that offense is not being committed in his presence in respect of the justification of an arrest without warrant. The acts must become known to the officer, at the time of their commission, through his sensory perception, and he must infer that they constitute an offense.' 4 Am.Jur. (2d), Arrest, Section 31, p. 721, citing in support State v. Williams, supra, 237 S.C. 252, 116 S.E.2d 858.


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25 cases
  • Robinson v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • July 9, 1968
    ...accused but, unlike the instant case, had not seen him commit the misdemeanor. The arrest was held to be invalid. In Prosser v. Parsons, 245 S.C. 493, 141 S.E.2d 342 (1965), an action in tort for false imprisonment, a detail of ten game wardens stationed themselves in a certain area, mainta......
  • Van Schaick v. United States, Civ. A. No. 82-2263-15.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • November 22, 1983
    ...that probable cause existed for his arrest. That being so, the United States cannot be liable for false arrest. Prosser v. Parsons, 245 S.C. 493, 498, 141 S.E.2d 342, 346 (1965). The liability of the United States in this case is based on the misconduct of Deputy Howard, Officer Michell, an......
  • State v. Warren
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 17, 1985
    ...observed that the offender was speeding). For other cases "illustrative of collective police investigation, see Prosser v. Parsons, 245 S.C. 493, 141 S.E.2d 342 (1965) (approximately ten game wardens working together to apprehend night hunters); Howes v. State, 503 P.2d 1055 (Alaska 1972) (......
  • Penn v. Com., 1635-90-3
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals
    • December 10, 1991
    ...the view of one officer was in legal effect within the [presence and] view of the other cooperating officers." Prosser v. Parsons, 245 S.C. 493, 141 S.E.2d 342, 346 (1965). Courts in other jurisdictions have recognized the "police-team" approach and have held that an arrest by one of a team......
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4 books & journal articles
  • C. Misuse of Legal Proceedings
    • United States
    • The South Carolina Law of Torts (SCBar) Chapter 6 Intentional Torts
    • Invalid date
    ...a claim for malicious prosecution).[394] Melton v. Williams, 281 S.C. 182, 186, 314 S.E.2d 612, 615 (Ct. App. 1984); Prosser v. Parsons, 245 S.C. 493, 141 S.E.2d 342 (1965); White v. Coleman, 277 F. Supp. 292 (D.S.C. 1967).[395] 281 S.C. 182, 314 S.E.2d 612 (Ct. App. 1984).[396] Id. at 186,......
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