THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
The State, Respondent,
Constance Alls, Appellant.
Appeal From Charleston County
Larry R. Patterson, Judge
Heard April 7, 1998 - Filed May 18, 1998
Deputy Chief Attorney Joseph L. Savitz, 111, and
Assistant Appellate Defender Aileen P. Clare, both of
South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, of
Columbia, for appellant.
Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Deputy
Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant
Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and
Senior Assistant Attorney General Charles H.
Richardson, all of Columbia; and Solicitor David P.
Schwacke, of Charleston, all for respondent.
TOAL, A.J.: Constance Alls appeals her conviction under S.C. Code
Ann. § 16-5-50 (1985), arguing that the trial court erred in denying her
motion for a directed verdict on the inapplicability of this statute. We agreeand reverse.
Two officers came to Alls's home to serve a family court bench warrant
on her boyfriend for failure to pay child support. They knocked on her
apartment door for some 10 minutes until Alls finally came to the door. She
told them that her boyfriend was not there, but allowed them to look in the
apartment. The officers found the boyfriend concealing himself in a closet.
Alls claimed she did not know he was in the apartment.
The officers arrested Alls and her boyfriend. She was indicted under
S.C. Code Ann. § 16-5-50. She was tried, and a jury found her guilty. Alls
was sentenced to one year imprisonment and fined $1,000, suspended upon
the service of three months and payment of the fine, with probation for one
year. She appeals her conviction.
Alls argues the trial court erred in denying her motion for a directed
verdict because section 16-5-50 applies only to persons hindering the arrest
of an individual charged with an offense against civil rights. We agree.
The State indicted Alls under subsections (a) and (d) of S.C. Code Ann.
§ 16-5-50. The entire title, chapter, and section headings, as well as the text,
CRIMES AND OFFENSES
Offenses Against Civil Rights
§ 16-5-50 Penalty for hindering officers or rescuing prisoners.
Any person who shall (a) hinder, prevent or obstruct any officer
or other person charged with the execution of any warrant or
other process issued under the provisions of this chapter in
arresting any person for whose apprehension such warrant or
other process may have been issued, (b) rescue or attempt to
rescue such person from the custody of the officer or person or
persons lawfully assisting him, as aforesaid, (c) aid, abet or assist
any person so arrested, as aforesaid, directly or indirectly, to
escape from the custody of the officer or person or persons
assisting him, as aforesaid, or (d) harbor or conceal any person
for whose arrest a warrant or other process shall have been
issued, so as to prevent his discovery and arrest, after notice or
knowledge of the fact of the issuing of such warrant or other
process, shall, on conviction for any such offense, be subject to a
fine of not less than fifty nor more than one thousand dollars or
imprisonment for not less than three months nor more than one
year, or both, at the discretion of the court having jurisdiction.
S.C. Code Ann. § 16-5-50. At the conclusion of the State's case, Alls moved
for a directed verdict, arguing that section 16-5-50 only applies to officers
executing warrants for offenses against civil rights. The court granted the
motion as to subsection (a) of the statute, but denied it as to subsection (d).
We agree with Alls that the trial court erred in failing to direct a
verdict as to subsection (d) of section 16-5-50. If subsection (d) were viewed
in isolation, it would literally appear to be applicable to the facts of this case.
However, a closer examination reveals that section 16-5-50 is part of a
broader statutory scheme concerning civil rights. Section 16-5-50 was
originally enacted in 1871. Except for minor changes, the provision in the
1871 act is the same as current section 16-5-50. The preamble 1 to the
original act evidences that section 16-5-50 was intended to apply to arrests
made in relation to offenses against civil rights:
Whereas threatenings, intimidation and violence are used in
portions of this State against the peace of the same; and whereas
the laws are set at defiance, and the officers of the law hindered,
prevented and obstructed in the discharge of their duties; and
whereas armed, disguised and lawless persons-are threatening,
maltreating and assassinating peaceable and defenceless citizens;
therefore .... [b]e it enacted ...
Acts & Joint Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of South
Carolina 559 (1871); see also Warr v. Darlington County, 181 S.C. 254, 186
S.E. 920 (1936).
An examination of the other provisions of Title 16, Chapter 5 reinforces
(1936)(While it is true that the preamble is not a part of the effective portion
of the statute, nevertheless the preamble may supply the guide to the
meaning of the act.).
the conclusion that section 16-5-50(d) relates to offenses against civil rights.
South Carolina Code Ann. § 16-5-10 (Supp. 1997) provides that it is "unlawful
for two or more persons to band or conspire together or go in disguise upon
the public highway or upon the premises of another with the intent to injure,
oppress, or violate the person or property of a citizen because of his political
opinion or his expression ......" South Carolina Code Ann. § 16-5-30 (1985)
addresses the duties and liabilities of officers "upon receipt of notice from any
person that he has knowledge of an intention or attempt to destroy his
property or to collect a mob for that purpose." South Carolina Code Ann. §
16-5-60 (1985) concerns suits against counties for damages resulting from
civil rights violations. South Carolina Code Ann. § 16-5-70 (1985) provides
for suits against counties for damages, where property was destroyed in
consequence of any mob or riot. South Carolina Code Ann. § 16-5-90 (1985)
preserves the property owner's right of action against the participants in any
mob or riot, which resulted in damage to property. South Carolina Code
Ann. §§ 16-5-120--130 (1985 & Supp. 1997) set out the penalties for engaging
in, or instigating, aiding, or participating in, riots.
In construing statutory language, the statute must be read as a whole,
and sections which are part of the same general statutory law must be
construed together and each one given effect, if it can be done by any
reasonable construction. Higgins v. State, 307 S.C. 446, 415 S.E.2d 799
(1992). When read as a whole, section 16-5-50 must be construed as part of
a broader civil rights statutory scheme, and not as an independent means of
prosecuting those who harbor or conceal persons to be arrested. We hold
that section 16-5-50(d) is applicable to those who harbor or conceal any
person for whose arrest a warrant or other process shall have been issued
under the provisions of Title 16, Chapter 5. Alls should probably have been
indicted under a different statute, such as S.C. Code Ann. § 16-9-320 (Supp.
resist a law enforcement officer in serving, executing, or
attempting to serve or execute a legal writ or process or to resist
an arrest being made by one whom the person knows or
reasonably should know is a law enforcement officer, whether
under process or not. A person who violates the provisions of this
subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must
be fined not less than five hundred dollars nor more than one
thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
S.C. Code Ann. § 16-9-320(a).
We are aware of previous cases wherein individuals have been convicted
under section 16-5-50 in actions other than those relating to civil rights. See,
e.g., State v. Etherage, 277 S.C. 523, 290 S.E.2d 413 (1982). It must be
recognized, however, that in none of these cases did the, defendants raise the
issue of the inapplicability of section 16-5-50, as Alls has in this appeal.
Based on the foregoing, we REVERSE Alls's conviction.
FINNEY, C.J., MOORE, WALLER and BURNETT, JJ., concur.