THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
The State, Petitioner,
Taurus M. Cannon, Respondent.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF
Appeal From York County
Daniel F. Pieper, Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 24989
Heard June 8, 1999 - Filed August 16, 1999
Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief 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 Thomas E.
Pope, of York, for petitioner.
Robert M. Dudek of the South Carolina Office of
Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for respondent.
Assistant Solicitor Amie L. Clifford, of North
Charleston, for amicus curiae Solicitors' Association
of South Carolina, Inc., and South Carolina Sheriffs'
BURNETT, A.J.: After he was arrested on charges of criminal
domestic violence, the police searched Respondent Taurus M. Cannon and
found crack cocaine in his pocket. Respondent was convicted of possession of
crack cocaine with intent to distribute and sentenced to six years'
imprisonment.1 Concluding the crack cocaine was inadmissible, the Court of
Appeals reversed respondent's conviction and sentence. State v. Cannon,
329 S.C. 1632 495 S.E.2d 218 (Ct. App. 1997). This Court granted the State's
petition for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision. The
Solicitors' Association of South Carolina, Inc., and South Carolina Sheriffs'
Association filed a joint amicus curiae brief.
Prior to trial, respondent moved to suppress the admission of the
crack cocaine. The following testimony was offered at the suppression
Officer Neeley of the City of York Police Department testified, in
response to a criminal domestic violence complaint, he went to the home of
Betty Cannon, respondent's mother. Mrs. Cannon invited Officer Neeley
into her home. She told Officer Neeley respondent, who also resided in the
home, had a knife. Officer Neeley spoke with respondent. Respondent
stated he was playing a video game when his mother became upset, came at
him with a vacuum cleaner, and he grabbed a knife. Officer Neeley arrested
respondent for criminal domestic violence and placed him in handcuffs.
After escorting respondent outside, Officer Neeley conducted a "search
incident to arrest" and located a pill bottle in respondent's pocket. The bottle
held plastic bags containing crack cocaine. Officer Neeley testified if he had
not been invited into the home, he would not have entered because he "didn't
possession of crack cocaine within the proximity of a school, the solicitor
withdrew this charge at trial.
hear screams or anything like that."
Respondent argued S.C. Code Ann.§ 16-25-70(H)(Supp. 1998)
prohibits the admission of evidence of crimes, other than criminal domestic
violence, seized through a warrantless search conducted as a result of a
criminal domestic violence complaint. The solicitor argued the crack cocaine
was admissible because respondent's mother had invited the officer into her
home and the search was incident to respondent's arrest. Finding the police
entered respondent's home with the consent of his mother, not based on the
statutory authority of § 16-25-70, the trial judge denied respondent's motion
to suppress. The Court of Appeals reversed. §
Did the Court of Appeals err by holding S.C. Code Ann. § 16-25
70(H) prohibits the admission of evidence of crimes, other than
criminal domestic violence, seized as a result of a valid
warrantless search after an arrest for criminal domestic
In 1984., the General Assembly enacted the Criminal Domestic
Violence Act (the Act). 1984 S.C. Acts 484, §1. it defined the statutory
offense of criminal domestic violence2 and set forth the penalties for a
conviction. In addition, the Act provided the circumstances under which a
law enforcement officer may effect an arrest for criminal domestic violence
either with or without a warrant, specifically permitted a warrantless arrest
even if the violence did not take place in the presence of an officer, and
permitted an officer to enter a person's home without a warrant to effect the
household member, (2) offer or attempt to cause physical harm or injury to a
person's own household member with apparent present ability under
circumstances reasonably creating fear of imminent peril." § 16-25-20.
arrest.3 It further provided "[n]o evidence other than evidence of violations
of this article found as a result of a warrantless search shall be admissible in
any court of law." The Act stated nothing in the article would limit the
power of the police to make "other lawful arrests."
Although the substance of the original Act remains, § 16-25-70
has been expanded and designated into subsections. Currently, § 16-25
70(C) provides, in part:
in effecting a warrantless arrest under this section, a law
enforcement officer may enter the residence of the person to be
arrested in order to effect the arrest where the officer has
probable cause to believe that the action is reasonably necessary
to prevent physical harm or danger to a family or household
Section 16-25-70(H) provides:
No evidence other than evidence of violations of this article found
as a result of a warrantless search is admissible in a court of law.
Section 16-25-80, in part, provides:
Nothing in this article affects or limits . . . the powers of the
police to make other lawful arrests.
The cardinal rule of statutory construction is that the Court
ascertain and effectuate the actual intent of the legislature. Mid-State Auto
Auction of Lexington, Inc. v. Altman, 324 S.C. 65, 476 S.E.2d 690 (1996). In
ascertaining the intent of the legislature, a court should not focus on any
single section or provision but should consider the language of the statute as
a whole. Id.
high and aggravated nature, criminal domestic violence is a misdemeanor.
§§ 16-25-30 to -65.
We conclude § 16-25-70(C) is inapplicable in this case. Officer
Neeley did not enter respondent's home under the authority of § 16-25-70(C),
but rather upon the invitation of respondent's mother. Frazier v. Cupp, 394
U.S. 731, 89 S.Ct. 1420, 22 L.Ed.2d 684 (1969)(any person with an equal
right to use or occupy property may consent to its search). After determining
respondent had committed criminal domestic violence, Officer Neeley
arrested respondent. Once Officer Neeley lawfully arrested respondent on
charges of criminal domestic violence, he was entitled to search respondent
incident to the arrest. U.S. v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38
L.Ed.2d 427 (1973)(police officer may search arrestee and the area within his
immediate control for weapons and destructible evidence without first
obtaining a search warrant). Accordingly, since the officer did not enter
respondent's home under the authority of § 16-25-70(C), § 16-25-70(H) does
not apply and the evidence seized as a result of the valid search incident to
arrest was properly admitted in respondent's trial for possession of crack
cocaine with intent to distribute.4 Our decision is supported by the language
of § 16-25-80 which specifically provides nothing in the Act "affects or limits.
. . the powers of the police to make other lawful arrests."
FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, MOORE, and WALLER, JJ., concur
meaning of the statute precludes the admission of evidence of crimes, other
than criminal domestic violence, seized as a result of a warrantless search
conducted pursuant to § 16-25-70(C). In the case before us today, if the
officer had entered respondent's home under the authority of § 16-25-70(C),
the crack cocaine found in respondent's pocket would have arguably been
inadmissible pursuant to § 16-25-70(H). Similarly, as noted by the amicus
curiae, if the police make a warrantless entry into a home under the
authority of § 16-25-70(C) and observe in plain view a weapon which is
recognized as the weapon in an unrelated murder, the weapon could be
inadmissible under § 16-25-70(H) since murder is not a violation of the Act.