Friday, February 17, 2006

S.C. Supreme Court affirms that improperly amended indictment does not go to jurisdiction

In State v. Means, the supreme court overturned a decision by the court of appeals that reversed the conviction of Gerald Means based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction by the circuit court. The solicitor just prior to trial moved to amend the indictment from criminal domestic violence to criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. The motion was granted and Means's lawyer stated on the record that they had prepared the case for this higher charge. The court of appeals revered because the indictment was improperly amended. In overturning the court of appeals, the supreme court stated:

An indictment which allegedly is improperly amended no longer raises a question of subject matter jurisdiction; it instead raises a question of whether a defendant properly received notice he would be tried for a particular crime.


"The primary purposes of an indictment are to put the defendant on notice of what he is called upon to answer, i.e., to apprise him of the elements of the offense and to allow him to decide whether to plead guilty or stand trial, and to enable the circuit court to know what judgment to pronounce if the defendant is convicted."

Because the defendant had notice, there was no problem with the conviction.

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