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Case of the Month
March 2008

Case Overview

The State v. Berry Scott Bolin, Respondent

Respondent was charged with murder, assault and battery with intent to kill, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, assault with intent to kill, discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle and possession of a pistol by a person under 21 years of age. He was 19 years old at the time of the incident, during which he is alleged to have opened fire on occupants of a car.

Respondent’s counsel made a motion to quash the indictment for possession of a pistol by a person under 21 years of age on the ground that S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-30 (Supp. 2007) is unconstitutional. That statute states, in relevant part, that it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to possess a handgun. Respondent’s counsel argued the statute violated two portions of the South Carolina Constitution, specifically, article I, section 20, which is the right to bear arms, and article XVII, section 14, which states, in relevant part, that “[e]very citizen who is eighteen years of age or older, not laboring under disabilities prescribed in this Constitution or otherwise established by law, shall be deemed sui juris and endowed with full legal rights and responsibilities.” Respondent’s counsel argued that because respondent was old enough to be sui juris and the state constitution guarantees him the right to bear arms, he could not be charged with a crime for possession.

The State argued the right to bear arms is subject to reasonable regulation through the State’s police power and noted the right itself was expressly linked with the societal goal of a well-regulated militia rather than a purely individual right. The State also argued further legislative restriction based on age was authorized by the provision in article XVII, section 14 excluding those “not laboring under disabilities prescribed in this Constitution or otherwise established by law.” Finally, the State argued the right to self-defense did not give one unlimited choice as to the weapon used.

The circuit court judge in York County granted respondent’s motion to quash the indictment, finding section 16-3-30(B) unconstitutional because the “other disabilities” set forth in the “otherwise established by law” clause of the constitutional provision referred to something other than age.

The State has appealed. The South Carolina Supreme Court, instead of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, is hearing this appeal because it involves a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law. The case will be heard on Wednesday, March 5, 2008.

 


Case Briefs

Final Brief of Appellant

  Final Brief of Respondent

 


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