Wednesday, March 07, 2007

S.C. Supreme Court holds that a trial judge has authority to suspend a sentence absent clear statutory language to the contrary

In State v. Thomas, Thomas pled guilty to distributing crack in proximity to a school. He was sentenced to a ten year prison term, the minimum provided by S.C. Code Ann. § 44-53-445(B)(2). Six days later, Thomas appeared before the court seeking reconsideration of his sentence. The judge refused on the grounds that he was powerless to suspend any portion of the minimum sentence. The Supreme Court disagreed and held that unless the General Assembly clearly indicates in the statute that the sentence may not be suspended, South Carolina trial judges have the authority to suspend a sentence. The case was reversed and remanded for resentencing.

Of note, the trial judge in this case was Reggie Lloyd, current United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina, and a candidate for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

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