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2004-UP-545 - City of Greenwood v. Whiteside

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

City of Greenwood,        Respondent,

v.

Phillip W. Whiteside,        Appellant.


Appeal From Greenwood County
Wyatt T. Saunders, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2004-UP-545
Submitted October 1, 2004 – Filed October 27, 2004


AFFIRMED


Charles M. Watson, Jr., of Greenwood, for Appellant. 

Solicitor William Townes Jones, of Greenwood, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Philip W. Whiteside appeals the circuit court’s order upholding his conviction for violating a city noise ordinance.  We affirm. [1]

FACTS

Whiteside served as president of his social fraternity and lived in a house along with four of his fraternity brothers in the City of Greenwood, South Carolina.  On the evening of February 12, 2003, the brothers hosted a fraternity-sponsored house party and played music for their guests on a stereo.  The stereo belonged to one of the four brothers who shared the house with Whiteside, who was present at the party.  Police officers testified they could hear music and loud voices coming from the house approximately one and a half lots away. 

After determining the music was too loud, two police officers went to the house and asked some party guests to speak with the person in charge.  They summoned Whiteside, who came onto the porch and spoke with the officers.  When asked by the officers, Whiteside affirmed he was in charge of the house.  He was then issued a citation for violation of the city noise ordinance. 

The municipal court denied Whiteside’s motion for directed verdict and found him guilty of violating section 18-62 of the city noise ordinance after determining there was “direct and circumstantial evidence that indicated that [Whiteside] was in charge of the property in which the music was being emitted.”  The court “advised [Whiteside] that not only was the charge proper against him, but could also be brought against the other three persons who reside at this location and were present on this evening when this charge was made.” 

Whiteside appealed to the circuit court, arguing the judge erred in declining to grant a directed verdict because there was no evidence he either maintained or operated the stereo and therefore the ordinance was inapplicable to him as a matter of law.  The circuit court disagreed and upheld the conviction, finding Whiteside “was sufficiently in charge of the premises at issue to be deemed criminally responsible for the violation of City Ordinance 18-62, even though there was no specific evidence admitted that [Whiteside] personally operated the radio, or that the radio was his personal property.”  The court determined that as fraternity president, Whiteside was in “a position of special responsibility over the premises” and was “responsible for the consequence of unreasonable noise arising from the music being played.” 

DISCUSSION

Whiteside contends the circuit court erred by affirming the denial of his directed verdict motion arguing there was no evidence he owned or operated the stereo.  He claims the circuit court improperly held him responsible, as fraternity president, for the acts of his unidentified fraternity brother and housemate who also attended the party and owned and operated the stereo.  We disagree. 

“In criminal appeals from magistrate or municipal court, the circuit court does not conduct a de novo review, but instead reviews for preserved error raised to it by appropriate exception.  In reviewing criminal cases, this court may review errors of law only.”  State v. Henderson, 347 S.C. 455, 457, 556 S.E.2d 691, 692 (Ct. App. 2001) (internal citations omitted).  On appeal from the denial of a directed verdict, an appellate court shall view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State.  State v. Walker, 349 S.C. 49, 53, 562 S.E.2d 313, 315 (2002).  This court will affirm the denial of a directed verdict motion if there is any direct evidence or substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused.  State v. Harris, 351 S.C. 643, 653, 572 S.E.2d 267, 273 (2002). 

Section 18-62(a), Code of Ordinances for the City of Greenwood, provides in relevant part,

It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to maintain and operate . . . from any building, any public place or on any premises whatsoever within the city, any radio or device of any kind which is designed to amplify, or does in fact, amplify sound and/or music whereby the sound created therefrom creates unreasonably loud excessive or disturbing noises[.] 

All parties acknowledge Whiteside neither owned the stereo nor personally played the loud music heard by the officers.  However, as the person who accepted responsibility over the house, Whiteside co-hosted a party where the stereo located in the house living room was used to play music for the entertainment of his guests.  When the officers arrived to investigate the source of the loud noise and asked to speak with the person in charge, guests summoned Whiteside to meet them.  Finally, in his conversation with the officers, Whiteside acknowledged he was in charge of the house. 

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, we conclude there was substantial circumstantial evidence that Whiteside was responsible for the maintenance and operation of the stereo during the party.  As a result, his motion for directed verdict was properly denied.  State v. Williams, 321 S.C. 327, 332-33, 468 S.E.2d 626, 629 (1996) (“In ruling on a motion for a directed verdict, the trial judge is concerned with the existence of evidence, not with its weight.  When [an appellate court] reviews the denial of a motion for a directed verdict, it views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and if there is any direct or substantial circumstantial evidence which reasonably tends to prove the guilt of the accused, refusal by the trial judge to direct a verdict is not error.”) (internal citations omitted). 

AFFIRMED.

STILWELL, BEATTY, and SHORT, JJ., concur.


[1]         We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.