State v. Weston, No. 24724

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtTOAL; FINNEY
Citation329 S.C. 287,494 S.E.2d 801
Decision Date09 October 1997
Docket NumberNo. 24724
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Kelvin WESTON, Appellant. . Heard

Page 801

494 S.E.2d 801
329 S.C. 287
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Kelvin WESTON, Appellant.
No. 24724.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard Oct. 9, 1997.
Decided Dec. 15, 1997.

[329 S.C. 288] Assistant Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, Columbia, for appellant.

Attorney General Charles Molony Condon, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General John P. Riordan, Columbia, for respondent.

TOAL, Justice:

Appellant Kelvin Weston was convicted of murder and armed robbery. On appeal, Weston challenges the validity of a search warrant and argues that the evidence seized pursuant to such search warrant should have been suppressed at trial. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

Page 802

[329 S.C. 289] FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 31, 1994, Addie Lee Scott Argoe left her residence at 2224 Manse Street at around 7:00 p.m., locking both locks of her front door. James G. Alford lived with Argoe and remained in the house after Argoe left. When Argoe returned at 8:45 p.m., she found the front door ajar and Alford lying face down on the floor. Alford's pants' pockets were pulled out and money was missing from his wallet. The police later concluded that Alford had been shot and killed with a .25 caliber bullet.

On September 16, 1994, Claude Crumlin provided police with a written statement concerning an incident which occurred on March 18, 1994. Crumlin claimed that Kelvin Weston had attempted to rob him at gun point. Based on Crumlin's statement, warrants were issued on September 16, 1994, for Weston's arrest.

In the early afternoon of September 19, 1994, police went to a Chevron Station on Main Street to seize Weston's 1978 Datsun. After towing the Datsun to the City Police Department, police obtained a search warrant from a ministerial recorder to search its contents. Police stated in the search warrant that they were searching for property related to the Crumlin crime. The affidavit supporting the search warrant provided:

On March 18, 1994 at approx 2245 hours the victim (Claude Crumlin) was the victim of an armed robbery and assault with intent to kill at 5126 Farrow Rd. The defendant in this incident is a Kelvin Weston. Kelvin Weston, by S.C. highway depts., is the registered owner of the above listed vehicle. Also investigation revealed through witness in this matter that defendant was driving above vehicle at the time of the incident. The search for the above items are needed to fully complete this investigation.

The search was conducted on September 19, at 2:59 p.m. During the search, police discovered a box of .25 caliber bullets. Police forwarded the bullets to the FBI for elemental composition analysis. An FBI agent would later testify at trial that the elemental composition of the .25 caliber bullets found in Weston's Datsun matched the elemental composition of the .25 caliber bullet which killed Alford.

[329 S.C. 290] On November 13-16, 1995, Weston was tried for the murder and armed robbery of Alford. He was found guilty on both charges and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and thirty years for armed robbery.

Weston appeals, raising, inter alia, the following issue:

Did the trial court err in refusing to suppress ammunition seized from Weston's car because the affidavit underlying the search warrant was insufficient to support a finding of probable cause?

LAW/ANALYSIS

A search warrant may issue only upon a finding of probable cause. State v. Owen, 275 S.C. 586, 274 S.E.2d 510 (1981). Under S.C.Code Ann. § 17-13-140 (1985), a search warrant may be issued "only upon affidavit sworn to before the magistrate ... establishing the grounds for the warrant." A search warrant that is insufficient in itself to establish probable cause may be supplemented by sworn oral testimony. State v. Johnson, 302 S.C. 243, 395 S.E.2d 167 (1990). A reviewing court should give great deference to a magistrate's determination of probable cause. State v. Crane, 296 S.C. 336, 372 S.E.2d 587 (1988).

Weston argues that the affidavit underlying the search warrant in this case was insufficient to support a finding of probable cause. We agree.

In Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983), the United States Supreme Court rejected the application of a rigid two-pronged test in which an informant's veracity and basis of knowledge were considered as separate and independent requirements to finding probable cause. Instead, the Court adopted a totality of the circumstances test where veracity and basis of knowledge were relevant to, but not inflexible requirements of, a determination of probable cause:

The task of the issuing magistrate is simply to make a practical, common sense decision whether, given all the circumstances

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set forth in the affidavit before him,...

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41 practice notes
  • Faulkner v. State, No. 2677
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 29, 2004
    ...search based on invalid "anticipatory" search warrant on which officer could not reasonably rely); South Carolina v. Weston, 494 S.E.2d 801, 293 (1997)(vehicle search based on invalid search warrant on which officer could not reasonably 4. Accord Jones v. City of Denver, 854 F.2d 1206, 1209......
  • State v. Dupree, No. 3657.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 30, 2003
    ...may issue a search warrant only upon a finding of probable cause. State v. Tench, 353 S.C. 531, 579 S.E.2d 314 (2003); State v. Weston, 329 S.C. 287, 494 S.E.2d 801 (1997); State v. King, 349 S.C. 142, 561 S.E.2d 640 (Ct.App.2002). "The South Carolina General Assembly has enacted a requirem......
  • State v. Bowie, No. 3835.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 28, 2004
    ...561 S.E.2d at 643. The appellate court should give great deference to a magistrate's determination of probable cause. State v. Weston, 329 S.C. 287, 494 S.E.2d 801 (1997); State v. Driggers, 322 S.C. 506, 473 S.E.2d 57 (Ct.App.1996); see also State v. Sullivan, 267 S.C. 610, 230 S.E.2d 621 ......
  • State v. Fletcher, No. 3940.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 31, 2005
    ...561 S.E.2d at 643. The appellate court should give great deference to a magistrate's determination of probable cause. State v. Weston, 329 S.C. 287, 494 S.E.2d 801 (1997); Driggers, 322 S.C. at 510, 473 S.E.2d at 59; see also Sullivan, 267 S.C. at 617, 230 S.E.2d at 624 (elucidating that ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
42 cases
  • Faulkner v. State, No. 2677
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 29, 2004
    ...search based on invalid "anticipatory" search warrant on which officer could not reasonably rely); South Carolina v. Weston, 494 S.E.2d 801, 293 (1997)(vehicle search based on invalid search warrant on which officer could not reasonably 4. Accord Jones v. City of Denver, 854 F.2d 1206, 1209......
  • State v. Dupree, No. 3657.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 30, 2003
    ...may issue a search warrant only upon a finding of probable cause. State v. Tench, 353 S.C. 531, 579 S.E.2d 314 (2003); State v. Weston, 329 S.C. 287, 494 S.E.2d 801 (1997); State v. King, 349 S.C. 142, 561 S.E.2d 640 (Ct.App.2002). "The South Carolina General Assembly has enacted a requirem......
  • State v. Bowie, No. 3835.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 28, 2004
    ...561 S.E.2d at 643. The appellate court should give great deference to a magistrate's determination of probable cause. State v. Weston, 329 S.C. 287, 494 S.E.2d 801 (1997); State v. Driggers, 322 S.C. 506, 473 S.E.2d 57 (Ct.App.1996); see also State v. Sullivan, 267 S.C. 610, 230 S.E.2d 621 ......
  • State v. Fletcher, No. 3940.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 31, 2005
    ...561 S.E.2d at 643. The appellate court should give great deference to a magistrate's determination of probable cause. State v. Weston, 329 S.C. 287, 494 S.E.2d 801 (1997); Driggers, 322 S.C. at 510, 473 S.E.2d at 59; see also Sullivan, 267 S.C. at 617, 230 S.E.2d at 624 (elucidating that ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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