State v. Sweat, No. 4409.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtAnderson
Citation379 S.C. 367,665 S.E.2d 645
PartiesThe STATE of South Carolina, Appellant, v. Reginald Craig SWEAT, Respondent. The State of South Carolina, Appellant, v. Arthur Bryant, III, Respondent.
Decision Date10 June 2008
Docket NumberNo. 4409.
665 S.E.2d 645
379 S.C. 367
The STATE of South Carolina, Appellant,
v.
Reginald Craig SWEAT, Respondent.
The State of South Carolina, Appellant,
v.
Arthur Bryant, III, Respondent.
No. 4409.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard June 3, 2008.
Decided June 10, 2008.
Rehearing Denied August 25, 2008.

[665 S.E.2d 647]

Charles H. Sheppard and Rachel D. Erwin, both of Blythewood, for Appellant.

Richard L. Pearce, of Aiken, for Respondents.

Danny C. Crowe and R. Hawthorne Barrett, both of Columbia, for Amicus Curiae, Municipal Association of South Carolina.

ANDERSON, J.


The State appeals the dismissal of convictions of Reginald Craig Sweat and Arthur Bryant, III, for exceeding the statutory maximum gross vehicle weight. We affirm.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On February 14, 2006, Reginald Craig Sweat, a sanitation truck driver for the City of Aiken, was stopped and cited by a State Transport Police (hereafter STP) officer for exceeding the allowable gross vehicle weight for the 2005 Sterling Model LT9500, three-axle sanitation truck he was driving. The citation alleges the vehicle weighed 57,100 pounds. The officer claimed the allowable weight was 50,600 pounds, calculated as 46,000 pounds plus a ten percent scale tolerance of 4,600 pounds.

On April 10, 2006, a different STP officer cited Arthur Bryant, III, another driver for the City of Aiken, for driving the same sanitation truck in excess of the allowable gross vehicle weight. On this occasion, the truck weighed 56,900 pounds. The officer noted the allowable weight as 50,600 pounds.

A trial was held before an Aiken County Magistrate. The State and Respondents stipulated to the facts of the case. The drivers made a motion to dismiss both tickets alleging South Carolina Code Section 56-5-4140 permits them to operate the city's sanitation truck at a maximum gross vehicle weight of 66,000 pounds, i.e., a higher gross vehicle weight than the actual vehicle weight shown on the two citations. The magistrate issued two separate orders finding each driver guilty of violating the gross vehicle weight statute. The orders do not contain findings of fact or conclusions of law.

The drivers appealed their convictions to the Court of Common Pleas. The circuit court reversed the magistrate's orders and remanded the cases for entry of a not guilty verdict. The court's order articulates:

S.C.Code Section 56-5-4140 contains several sections which set forth the weight limits of trucks driving on South Carolina roads that are not in the interstate highway system.

Under Section 56-5-4140(1)(a)(2), the general weight limit provision, the gross weight for vehicles equipped with three axles is 46,000 pounds.

Several exceptions to this general rule for gross vehicle weights exist under this statute, however.

Under Section 56-5-4140(1)(b) trucks with three axles spaced 32 feet in any consecutive group allow the gross vehicle weight to top out at 60,000 pounds.

Another excepted group of trucks appears in Section 56-5-4140(2)(a). Under this provision, trucks designated and constructed for special type work—and the state [sic] has stipulated the City of Aiken garbage truck is such a truck —are exempted from any axle spacing requirements, are limited to a maximum gross weight of 20,000 pounds per axle plus scale tolerances.

Under S.C.Code Section 56-5-4160, scale tolerances are set at ten percent.

Photos introduced to Magistrate Neal and this Court show the garbage truck to have three axles. A review of the tickets issued to Appellants show that the vehicle weights for Sweat's driving to have been 15,500 pounds for axle 1 and 41,600 pounds

665 S.E.2d 648

for axle 2 and 3 in total. When Bryant drove the truck, it weight [sic] in at 15,300 for axle 1; 21,200 for axle 2; and 20,400 for axle 3.

All of these weights were well within the statutorily-set maximum weight per axle of 22,000 pounds.

The State's position that only the general provision under Section 56-5-4140(1)(a)(2) apply to this truck is misplaced.

To adopt the State's reading of this statute would contravene state law of statutory interpretation. When reviewing a statute, this Court must follow specific provisions over general language in the statute.

In these present cases, applying the specific statutory provisions allow for a garbage truck, as a vehicle constructed for a special type of work, means it can weigh in at up to 22,000 pounds per axle. Both Appellants were well within these limits as appears from the uncontraverted [sic] evidence in this record.

In the order denying the State's motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e), SCRCP, the circuit court reiterated and further explained the reasoning of its prior order:

Respondent has stipulated that the City of Aiken garbage truck driven by these two Appellants is a truck ". . . designed and constructed for special type work . . ." under the provisions of Section 56-5-4140(2)(a), S.C.Code Ann. (2005).

Trucks subject to this exception to the state gross vehicle weight limits are not required to follow the axle spacing requirements of 56-5-4140(b). Furthermore, these specially-built trucks also are allowed a weight of 20,000 pounds per axle, plus a 10% scale tolerance, not to exceed the maximum weight allowed by this section for the appropriate number of axles, irrespective of the spacing distance between axles, plus allowable scale tolerances. See 56-5-4140(2)(a) and table contained in 56-5-4140(1)(b).

In one instance, this truck driven by Sweat, with a single axle under the cab, and a tandem axle under its payload, weighed a total of 57,100 pounds [15,500 for the cab axle plus 41,600 lbs for payload axles]. When driven by Arthur Bryant, III, this truck weighed a total of 56,900 pounds [15,300 cab axle plus 41,600 for payload axles]. In both instances, the truck was well below the statutory maximum gross vehicle weight for a three-axle, specially built truck under 56-5-4140(2)(a):

 20,000 lbs for each axle × three axles: 60,000 pounds
                 PLUS
                 Scale tolerances of 10% (56-5-4160(A)): for each
                 axle × three axles 6,000 pounds
                 _____________
                 TOTAL ALLOWABLE GROSS WEIGHT
                 FOR THIS SPECIALLY-BUILT TRUCK: 66,000 pounds
                

Section 56-5-4140(2)(a) is the applicable specific statutory exception to the general gross weight limits contained in 56-5-4140(1)(a)(2). Therefore, charging these two drivers with purportedly exceeding allowable gross vehicle weights at readings of 57,100 and 56,900 pounds was improper and their convictions cannot stand.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The issue of interpretation of a statute is a question of law for the court. Univ. of S. California v. Moran, 365 S.C. 270, 275, 617 S.E.2d 135, 137 (Ct.App.2005); see also Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina v. State of South Carolina, 372 S.C. 519, 524, 642 S.E.2d 751, 753 (2007), cert. denied, Oct. 1, 2007; Charleston County Parks & Recreation Comm'n v. Somers, 319 S.C. 65, 67, 459 S.E.2d 841, 843 (1995).

Section 14-3-330 of the South Carolina Code (Supp.2006) vests the South Carolina Supreme Court with "appellate jurisdiction for correction of errors of law in law cases. . . ." Section 14-8-200(a) of the South Carolina Code (Supp.2007) provides the Court of Appeals "shall apply the same scope of review that the Supreme Court would apply in a similar case." Citing both section

665 S.E.2d 649

14-3-330 and South Carolina Constitution, article V, section 5, the supreme court has held an appellate court may decide novel questions of law with "no particular deference to the lower court." Madison ex rel. Bryant v. Babcock Ctr., Inc., 371 S.C. 123, 134, 638 S.E.2d 650, 656 (2006); Clark v. Cantrell, 339 S.C. 369, 378, 529 S.E.2d 528, 533 (2000); Thompson ex rel. Harvey v. Cisson Const. Co., 377 S.C. 137, 659 S.E.2d 171, 179 (Ct.App.2008).

"When an appeal involves stipulated or undisputed facts, an appellate court is free to review whether the trial court properly applied the law to those facts. In such cases, the appellate court is not required to defer to the trial court's legal conclusions." Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Prioleau, 359 S.C. 238, 242, 597 S.E.2d 165, 167 (Ct.App.2004) (quotation and citation omitted). When addressing novel question of law, the appellate court is free to decide the question based on its assessment of which answer and reasoning would best comport with the law and public policies of this state and the court's sense of law, justice, and right. Croft v. Old Republic Ins. Co., 365 S.C. 402, 408, 618 S.E.2d 909, 912 (2005).

In a case raising a novel question of law regarding the interpretation of a statute, the appellate court is free to decide the question with no particular deference to the lower court. I'On, L.L.C. v. Town of Mt. Pleasant, 338 S.C. 406, 411, 526 S.E.2d 716, 718-19 (2000). The construction of a statute by the agency charged with its administration will be accorded the most respectful consideration and will not be overruled absent compelling reasons. Buist v. Huggins, 367 S.C. 268, 276, 625 S.E.2d 636, 640 (2006). In Brown v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 354 S.C. 436, 440, 581 S.E.2d 836, 838 (2003), our supreme court stated:

We recognize the Court generally gives deference to an administrative agency's interpretation of an applicable statute or its own regulation. Nevertheless, where, as here, the plain language of the statute is contrary to the agency's interpretation, the Court will reject the agency's interpretation.

Id. (Citation omitted).

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Statutory Construction

The cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to determine the intent of the legislature. Bass v. Isochem, 365 S.C. 454, 459, 617 S.E.2d 369, 377 (Ct.App.2005); Georgia-Carolina Bail Bonds, Inc. v. County of Aiken, 354 S.C. 18, 22, 579 S.E.2d 334, 336 (Ct.App.2003); Smith v. S.C. Ins. Co., 350 S.C. 82, 87, 564 S.E.2d 358, 361 (Ct.App. 2002); see also Gordon v. Phillips Utils., Inc., 362 S.C. 403, 406, 608 S.E.2d 425, 427 (2005) ("The primary purpose in...

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35 practice notes
  • Coastal Conservation v. Dept. of Health, No. 4450.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
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    ...a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced construction. State v. Sweat, 379 S.C.367, 665 S.E.2d 645, 650 (Ct.App.2008) (citing Durham v. United Cos. Fin. Corp., 331 S.C. 600, 604, 503 S.E.2d 465, 468 (1998); Adkins v. Comcar Indus., Inc.,......
  • Jolly v. Gen. Elec. Co., 5858
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    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 1, 2021
    ...efficacy, or the legislature would not have enacted it into law.'" (citation omitted) (alterations in original) (quoting State v. Sweat, 379 S.C. 367, 377, 382, 665 S.E.2d 645, 651, 654 (Ct. App. 2008), aff'd as modified on other grounds, 386 S.C. 339, 688 S.E.2d 569 (2010))); S.C. Dep't of......
  • Jolly v. Gen. Elec. Co., Appellate Case No. 2017-002611
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 1, 2021
    ...efficacy, or the legislature would not have enacted it into law.’ " (citation omitted) (alterations in original) (quoting State v. Sweat , 379 S.C. 367, 377, 382, 665 S.E.2d 645, 651, 654 (Ct. App. 2008), aff'd as modified on other grounds , 386 S.C. 339, 688 S.E.2d 569 (2010) )); S.C. Dep'......
  • Original Blue Ribbon Taxi v. Sc Dmv, No. 4461.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 25, 2008
    ...statutes require no statutory construction and must be applied according to the literal meaning of their terminology. State v. Sweat, 379 S.C. 367, 375, 665 S.E.2d 645, 650 (Ct.App.2008); Neal v. Brown, 374 S.C. 641, 650, 649 S.E.2d 164, 168 (Ct.App.2007). Words in the statute should be giv......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
35 cases
  • Coastal Conservation v. Dept. of Health, No. 4450.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 23, 2008
    ...a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced construction. State v. Sweat, 379 S.C.367, 665 S.E.2d 645, 650 (Ct.App.2008) (citing Durham v. United Cos. Fin. Corp., 331 S.C. 600, 604, 503 S.E.2d 465, 468 (1998); Adkins v. Comcar Indus., Inc.,......
  • Jolly v. Gen. Elec. Co., 5858
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 1, 2021
    ...efficacy, or the legislature would not have enacted it into law.'" (citation omitted) (alterations in original) (quoting State v. Sweat, 379 S.C. 367, 377, 382, 665 S.E.2d 645, 651, 654 (Ct. App. 2008), aff'd as modified on other grounds, 386 S.C. 339, 688 S.E.2d 569 (2010))); S.C. Dep't of......
  • Jolly v. Gen. Elec. Co., Appellate Case No. 2017-002611
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 1, 2021
    ...efficacy, or the legislature would not have enacted it into law.’ " (citation omitted) (alterations in original) (quoting State v. Sweat , 379 S.C. 367, 377, 382, 665 S.E.2d 645, 651, 654 (Ct. App. 2008), aff'd as modified on other grounds , 386 S.C. 339, 688 S.E.2d 569 (2010) )); S.C. Dep'......
  • Original Blue Ribbon Taxi v. Sc Dmv, No. 4461.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 25, 2008
    ...statutes require no statutory construction and must be applied according to the literal meaning of their terminology. State v. Sweat, 379 S.C. 367, 375, 665 S.E.2d 645, 650 (Ct.App.2008); Neal v. Brown, 374 S.C. 641, 650, 649 S.E.2d 164, 168 (Ct.App.2007). Words in the statute should be giv......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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