The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state’s civil forfeiture law in an order issued Sept. 14 but acknowledged the state Legislature could decide to change the law to make it more fair to those who’ve had possessions reserved by law enforcement.
The decision comes more than 20 months after the court heard oral arguments in a case that presented a constitutional challenge to the state law. The court ruled the case did not meet the high bar to strike down the state law.
“Several states have amended their statutory schemes to impose more stringent requirements on the government; however, the fact that certain states have legislatively altered their civil forfeiture laws provides no support for judicially changing ours,” the order said. “Legislative alteration might be a good thing, but we are not called upon to decide whether a change in the law would be wise.”
The case originated out of the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in Horry County following the seizure of nearly $20,000 in 2017 from Travis Lee Green, a convicted Myrtle Beach drug dealer. Fifteenth Circuit Court Judge Stephen John placed a stay on all forfeiture cases in the circuit, asked for arguments for and against the constitutionality of the state’s law and then ruled the state law violated both the state and US constitutions.
The solicitor’s office appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court’s ruling and remanded the case back to the circuit court for a jury trial on the merits of Green’s forfeiture case.
The challenge drew attention from state and national advocates against forfeiture laws, including the American Civil Liberties Union, SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Police Accountability Project. Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote an argument in favor of