State v. Smith, 22522

Decision Date11 March 1986
Docket NumberNo. 22522,22522
Citation288 S.C. 329,342 S.E.2d 600
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. James Weldon SMITH, Appellant. . Heard
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Attorney Gen. T. Travis Medlock, Asst. Atty. Gen. Harold M. Coombs, Jr., and James C. Anders, Sol. of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, Columbia, for respondent.


James Weldon Smith (Smith) was found guilty of Second Offense Driving Under the Influence at a jury trial. He was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $1000, suspended upon service of 90 days and payment of a $500 fine.

We reverse and remand for a new trial.


Smith was stopped for weaving on Interstate 20 in Kershaw County. The arresting officer testified that Smith appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. He was taken to jail and given a "breathalyzer" test. The results were admitted into evidence at trial.

During the jury instruction, the trial judge stated:

The legislature has also enacted a statute pertaining to a machine known as a breathalyzer machine. If the State proves that the machine was in proper working order at the time of the test, that the correct chemicals were used, that the accused was not allowed to put anything in his mouth for 20 minutes prior to the test, and that the test was administered by a qualified person in the proper manner, then the results of the test can be admitted into evidence and [sic] the jury to consider. You have heard such evidence. [Emphasis supplied].

The trial judge denied Smith's request for a clarifying instruction that the charge was not a comment from the bench that the State had, in fact, proved its case; that these facts were for the jury to decide.


Smith contends the trial judge committed error: (1) in his jury instruction regarding the statutory presumption of intoxication and (2) in commenting upon the evidence in his charge.

Under the view we take of the case, it is unnecessary to address the presumption issue. 1 Accordingly, the single issue for review is: Whether the trial judge's charge contained an impermissible comment upon the facts.


Article V, § 21 of the South Carolina Constitution provides:

Judges shall not charge juries in respect to matters of fact, but shall declare the law.

The trial judge must refrain from all comment which tends to indicate his opinion as to the weight or sufficiency of the evidence, the credibility of...

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12 cases
  • State v. Burdette, Appellate Case No. 2017-001990
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • July 31, 2019
    ...; Plyler v. State , 309 S.C. 408, 424 S.E.2d 477 (1992) ; Carter v. State , 301 S.C. 396, 392 S.E.2d 184 (1990) ; State v. Smith , 288 S.C. 329, 342 S.E.2d 600 (1986) ; State v. Peterson , 287 S.C. 244, 335 S.E.2d 800 (1985) ; State v. Lucas , 285 S.C. 37, 328 S.E.2d 63 (1985) ; State v. Ca......
  • State v. Dickey
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • October 29, 2008
    ...form: "If X, Y and Z occur, that constitutes manslaughter." He did not say, "X, Y and Z occurred." See, e.g., State v. Smith, 288 S.C. 329, 330-31, 342 S.E.2d 600, 601 (1986) (holding judge's instruction, "If the State proves [elements one through four], then the results of the test can be ......
  • State v. Brisbon
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • May 7, 1996
    ...witnesses, the guilt of an accused, or any fact in controversy. Sosebee v. Leeke, 293 S.C. 531, 362 S.E.2d 22 (1987); State v. Smith, 288 S.C. 329, 342 S.E.2d 600 (1986). Sosebee and Smith, however, are easily distinguishable. In Smith, during the jury instruction, the judge, after describi......
  • Sosebee v. Leeke, 22796
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • November 9, 1987
    ...or sufficiency of the evidence, the credibility of witnesses, the guilt of an accused, or any fact in controversy. State v. Smith, 288 S.C. 329, 342 S.E.2d 600 (1986); State v. Kennedy, supra. "It has long been recognized that even a slight remark, apparently innocent in its language, may, ......
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