Tuesday, October 04, 2005

S.C. Supreme Court says no jury trial in civil forfeiture proceeding

In Mims Amusement v. SLED, the Supreme Court considered whether a party has a right to a jury trial, under the state constitution, in a civil forfeiture proceeding involving an allegedly illegal video gaming machine. The Court answered in the negative.

Distinguishing between contraband per se and derivative contraband, the Court framed the crucial question as follows:

The controlling question we must answer, then, is whether a video gaming machine--at the moment of seizure--is an item of contraband per se or derivative contraband. Is the unexamined machine more like a roulette wheel or an automobile? If it is the former, a claimant has no right to a jury trial; if it is the latter, a claimant has a right to a jury trial.

Because it deemed the machine contraband per se, there was no right to a jury trial.

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