The State v. Wright, No. 26931.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtChief Justice TOAL.
Citation706 S.E.2d 324,391 S.C. 436
PartiesThe STATE, Appellant,v.Gregory Leon WRIGHT, Ernest Anderson, Elijah Carroll, Orlando Coulette, Reco Ham, Jennifer Lyles, and Booker T. Washington, Respondents.
Decision Date16 March 2011
Docket NumberNo. 26931.

391 S.C. 436
706 S.E.2d 324

The STATE, Appellant,
v.
Gregory Leon WRIGHT, Ernest Anderson, Elijah Carroll, Orlando Coulette, Reco Ham, Jennifer Lyles, and Booker T. Washington, Respondents.

No. 26931.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard Nov. 17, 2010.Decided Feb. 22, 2011.Rehearing Denied March 16, 2011.


[706 S.E.2d 325]

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott and Assistant Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, all of Columbia, for Appellant.Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, of Columbia; Deborah J. Butcher, of Camden; Harry Leslie Devoe, Jr., of New Zion; and Steven Smith McKenzie, of Coffey, Chandler & Kent, of Manning, for Respondents.Chief Justice TOAL.

[391 S.C. 439] In June 2007, a Clarendon County Grand Jury indicted Respondents on several counts related to dogfighting. This matter was called for trial on July 14, 2008. The circuit court [391 S.C. 440] granted Respondents' motion to suppress certain evidence, and the State timely appealed the circuit court's ruling. This Court certified this case for review pursuant to Rule 204(b), SCACR.

Facts/Procedural Background

On November 26, 2006, the Clarendon County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous tip about dogfighting at a mobile home off Jackson Road in Clarendon County. Respondents Orlando Coulette (Coulette) and Jennifer Lyles (Lyles) lived in the mobile home. This tip was received around 7:00 p.m. when the officers were just about to change shifts. Because the tip came in around shift change, the deputies were instructed to stay over and wait at a church approximately two miles from the mobile home in case they were needed. Two deputies then drove past the Jackson Road address on a public road and observed a large number of vehicles parked at the mobile home and spotlights shining in an area next to the mobile home.

[706 S.E.2d 326]

Approximately forty-five minutes to an hour after receiving the anonymous tip, law enforcement gathered at the church, paired up in several cars, and drove to the address to investigate further. The mobile home was located down a dirt road shared by at least one other mobile home.1 The deputies initially had their car headlights off as they drove down the shared road. When the deputies turned their headlights on, they saw people and dogs running away from the mobile home. Sergeant Clay Conyers testified that as he got out of his car to chase the people and the dogs, he could hear dogs fighting in the woods behind the mobile home. Two deputies testified that while they were driving down the dirt road they saw a portable dogfighting pit in the area with the spotlights. Corporal Bernie Thorton testified that as the deputies arrived, people were trying to dismantle the dogfighting pit.

The deputies apprehended and detained the people who ran away, and captured as many loose dogs as possible. Sergeant Dan Cutler (Sergeant Cutler) was the investigations supervisor called to the Jackson Road location after the deputies found evidence of dogfighting there. After Sergeant Cutler [391 S.C. 441] observed the dogfighting pit with fresh blood and hair on the panels, and a dog with fresh lacerations, he advised the deputies to place the Respondents under arrest for dogfighting. While securing the scene, deputies saw in plain view dogfighting paraphernalia, including a dogfighting pit, dog muzzles, drugs, syringes, several injured dogs, and a dog suspension collar. Deputies obtained a search warrant the next day and seized additional evidence from the yard and from inside the mobile home. The probable cause for the search warrant was premised on the evidence seized the previous night.

Prior to trial, Coulette and Lyles moved to suppress all evidence seized on the property on the ground that law enforcement did not have a warrant and there was not an emergency such that the deputies could come onto the property. The other Respondents joined the motion to suppress, contending their seizures and subsequent arrests were premised on their presence at the scene and the illegally seized evidence. The State argued Respondents had no expectation of privacy in the driveway and the visible front of the residence. Moreover, the fleeing people and dogs created exigent circumstances that justified the warrantless entry onto the property. The State further asserted the evidence seized without a warrant was in plain view, and the arrests were based on that evidence.

After hearing testimony, the circuit court granted Respondents' motion to suppress, finding the exigent circumstances exception did not apply, and the plain view exception was precluded because discovery of the evidence was not inadvertent. Because the search warrant for the mobile home was obtained based on the evidence seized without a warrant, the court suppressed all of the State's evidence, precluding further prosecution of the State's case.

Issue

Did the circuit court err in granting Respondents' motion to suppress because the evidence at issue was properly seized under the plain view and exigent circumstances exceptions to the warrant requirement, and inadvertent discovery is not required for purposes of the plain view exception to the warrant requirement?

[391 S.C. 442] Standard of Review

“The admission of evidence is within the discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.” State v. Gaster, 349 S.C. 545, 557, 564 S.E.2d 87, 93 (2002) (citations omitted). “An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's ruling is based on an error of law or, when grounded in factual conclusions, is without evidentiary support.” Clark v. Cantrell, 339 S.C. 369, 389, 529 S.E.2d 528, 539 (2000) (citation omitted). When reviewing a Fourth Amendment search and seizure case, an appellate court must affirm if there is any evidence to support the ruling. State v. Missouri, 361 S.C. 107, 111, 603 S.E.2d 594, 596 (2004) (citation omitted). “The appellate court will reverse only when there is clear error.” Id. (citation omitted).

[706 S.E.2d 327]

Analysis

The State contends the circuit court erred as a matter of law in granting Respondents' motion to suppress because the evidence at issue was properly seized under the plain view and exigent circumstances exceptions to the warrant requirement. The State further contends that inadvertent discovery is not required for purposes of the plain view exception to the Fourth Amendment...

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81 practice notes
  • Robinson v. State, No. 27357.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 30, 2014
    ...who is rightfully in a position to view the objects are subject to seizure and may be introduced as evidence.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 443, 706 S.E.2d 324, 327 (2011). Therefore, for evidence to be lawfully seized under the plain view exception, the State must show: (1) the initial i......
  • State v. Robinson, No. 27463.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 12, 2014
    ...of the trial court, appellate courts should not reverse the decision of the trial court absent an abuse of discretion. State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 442, 706 S.E.2d 324, 326 (2011) (defining an abuse of discretion as a decision “ ‘based on an error of law, or, when grounded in factual conc......
  • McHam v. State, No. 27287.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 17, 2013
    ...the individual interest in privacy; a seizure deprives the individual of dominion over his or her person or property.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 442, 706 S.E.2d 324, 327 (2011) (quoting Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128, 133, 110 S.Ct. 2301, 110 L.Ed.2d 112 (1990)). “Temporary detenti......
  • State v. Johnson, No. 5246.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 30, 2014
    ...Fourth Amendment search and seizure case, an appellate court must affirm if there is any evidence to support the ruling.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 442, 706 S.E.2d 324, 326 (2011). “The appellate court will reverse only when there is clear error.' ” Id. (citing State v. Missouri, 361 S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
81 cases
  • Robinson v. State, No. 27357.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 30, 2014
    ...who is rightfully in a position to view the objects are subject to seizure and may be introduced as evidence.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 443, 706 S.E.2d 324, 327 (2011). Therefore, for evidence to be lawfully seized under the plain view exception, the State must show: (1) the initial i......
  • State v. Robinson, No. 27463.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 12, 2014
    ...of the trial court, appellate courts should not reverse the decision of the trial court absent an abuse of discretion. State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 442, 706 S.E.2d 324, 326 (2011) (defining an abuse of discretion as a decision “ ‘based on an error of law, or, when grounded in factual conc......
  • McHam v. State, No. 27287.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 17, 2013
    ...the individual interest in privacy; a seizure deprives the individual of dominion over his or her person or property.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 442, 706 S.E.2d 324, 327 (2011) (quoting Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128, 133, 110 S.Ct. 2301, 110 L.Ed.2d 112 (1990)). “Temporary detenti......
  • State v. Johnson, No. 5246.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 30, 2014
    ...Fourth Amendment search and seizure case, an appellate court must affirm if there is any evidence to support the ruling.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 442, 706 S.E.2d 324, 326 (2011). “The appellate court will reverse only when there is clear error.' ” Id. (citing State v. Missouri, 361 S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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