Article I Declaration Of Rights


This statutory database is current through the 2005 Regular Session of the South Carolina General Assembly. Changes to the statutes enacted by the 2006 General Assembly, which will convene in January 2006, will be incorporated as soon as possible. Some changes enacted by the 2006 General Assembly may take immediate effect. The State of South Carolina and the South Carolina Legislative Council make no warranty as to the accuracy of the data, or changes which may have been enacted since the 2005 Regular Session or which took effect after this database was prepared and users rely on the data entirely at their own risk.



SECTION 1. Political power in people.

All political power is vested in and derived from the people only, therefore, they have the right at all times to modify their form of government.

SECTION 2. Religious freedom; freedom of speech; right of assembly and petition.

The General Assembly shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government or any department thereof for a redress of grievances.

SECTION 3. Privileges and immunities; due process; equal protection of laws.

The privileges and immunities of citizens of this State and of the United States under this Constitution shall not be abridged, nor shall any person be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

SECTION 4. Attainder; ex post facto laws; impairment of contracts; titles; effect of conviction.

No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, law impairing the obligation of contracts, nor law granting any title of nobility or hereditary emolument, shall be passed, and no conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate.

SECTION 5. Elections free and open.

All elections shall be free and open, and every inhabitant of this State possessing the qualifications provided for in this Constitution shall have an equal right to elect officers and be elected to fill public office.

SECTION 6. Residence.

Temporary absence from the State shall not forfeit a residence once obtained.

SECTION 7. Suspension of laws.

The power to suspend the laws shall be exercised only by the General Assembly or by its authority in particular cases expressly provided for by it.

SECTION 8. Separation of powers.

In the government of this State, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other, and no person or persons exercising the functions of one of said departments shall assume or discharge the duties of any other.

SECTION 9. Courts; speedy remedy.

All courts shall be public, and every person shall have speedy remedy therein for wrongs sustained.

SECTION 10. Searches and seizures; invasions of privacy.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable invasions of privacy shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, the person or thing to be seized, and the information to be obtained.

SECTION 11. Presentment or indictment.

No person may be held to answer for any crime the jurisdiction over which is not within the magistrate's court, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury of the county where the crime has been committed, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger. The General Assembly may provide for the waiver of an indictment by the accused. Nothing contained in this Constitution is deemed to limit or prohibit the establishment by the General Assembly of a state grand jury with the authority to return indictments irrespective of the county where the crime has been committed and that other authority, including procedure, as the General Assembly may provide. (1989 Act No. 5, Section 2, eff February 15, 1989; 1989 Act No. 8, Section 1, eff February 15, 1989.)

SECTION 12. Double jeopardy; self incrimination.

No person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or liberty, nor shall any person be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

SECTION 13. Taking private property.

Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, private property shall not be taken for private use without the consent of the owner, nor for public use without just compensation being first made therefor.

SECTION 14. Trial by jury; witnesses; defense.

The right of trial by jury shall be preserved inviolate. Any person charged with an offense shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; to be fully informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to be fully heard in his defense by himself or by his counsel or by both.

SECTION 15. Right of bail; excessive bail; cruel or unusual or corporal punishment; detention of witnesses.

All persons shall be, before conviction, bailable by sufficient sureties, but bail may be denied to persons charged with capital offenses or offenses punishable by life imprisonment, or with violent offenses defined by the General Assembly, giving due weight to the evidence and to the nature and circumstances of the event. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor shall excessive fines be imposed, nor shall cruel, nor corporal, nor unusual punishment be inflicted, nor shall witnesses be unreasonably detained. (1998 Act No. 259, Section 2, eff February 17, 1998.)

SECTION 16. Libel.

In all indictments or prosecutions for libel, the truth of the alleged libel may be given in evidence, and the jury shall be the judges of the law and facts.

SECTION 17. Treason.

Treason against the State shall consist alone in levying war or in giving aid and comfort to enemies against the State. No person shall be held guilty of treason, except upon testimony of at least two witnesses to the same overt act, or upon confession in open court.

Provided, however, that the General Assembly may provide by law that any incorporated municipality in Sumter County or any housing or redevelopment authority now or hereafter established in the county may undertake and carry out slum clearance and redevelopment work, including the acquisition and clearance of areas which are predominantly slum or blighted areas, the preparation of such areas for reuse and the sale or disposition of such areas to private enterprise for private uses, or to public bodies for public uses. Any such work shall constitute a governmental function undertaken for public purposes, and the powers of taxation and eminent domain may be exercised and public funds expended in furtherance thereof. Provided, further, that just compensation be paid for all property and property rights so taken, including relocation costs. In cases of condemnation of land, where reuse is for private purposes, on which is located main underground subway systems, interstate toll lines, transmission lines, transformer vaults, gas pipelines or railroad main line trackage or other similar public utilities, the compensation to the public utility or railroad shall be the reasonable expense incurred in relocation of the systems, lines, vaults or trackage in addition to any other compensation to which it may be entitled by law.

Provided, that the municipalities of Cherokee County may pursuant to statutory law, now existing or hereafter enacted, and acting through their municipal councils or through any housing or redevelopment authority, now or hereafter established, undertake and carry out slum clearance and redevelopment work in areas which are predominantly slum or blighted, the preparation of such areas for reuse, and the sale or other disposition of such areas to private enterprise for private uses or to public bodies for public uses, and to that end may exercise the power of eminent domain as to any property essential to the plan of slum clearance and redevelopment. Provided, further, that just compensation be paid for all property and property rights so taken. When land is condemned and reuse is for private purposes, and there is located thereon any main underground subway system, interstate toll lines, transmission lines, transformer vaults or railroad trackage, the compensation to any public utility or railroad shall include, in addition to any other compensation to which it may be entitled by law, the reasonable expense incurred in relocating such system, lines, vaults or trackage as may be affected by such taking. Provided, further, that in cases of condemnation of land, where reuse is for private purposes, the condemnee shall be given the first opportunity to purchase the land when it is sold by the condemnor for such reuse. Provided, further, that when land is purchased or condemned, or when right-of-way is vacated, and such land or right-of-way is reused for private purposes, and the relocation or rearrangement of any main underground subway system, telephone line, transmission line, transformer vault or railroad trackage is required because of such reuse, the public utility or railroad shall be compensated, but the total compensation to any public utility or railroad, in addition to any other compensation to which it may be entitled by law, for such relocation or rearrangement shall not exceed the reasonable expense incurred in relocating or rearranging the system, lines, vaults or trackage affected by such taking.

SECTION 18. Suspension of habeas corpus.

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when, in case of insurrection, rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.

SECTION 19. Imprisonment for debt.

No person shall be imprisoned for debt except in cases of fraud.

SECTION 20. Right to keep and bear arms; armies; military power subordinate to civil authority; how soldiers quartered.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. As, in times of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained without the consent of the General Assembly. The military power of the State shall always be held in subordination to the civil authority and be governed by it. No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner nor in time of war but in the manner prescribed by law.

SECTION 21. Martial law.

No person shall in any case be subject to martial law or to any pains or penalties by virtue of that law, except those employed in the armed forces of the United States, and except the militia in actual service, but by the authority of the General Assembly.

SECTION 22. Procedure before administrative agencies; judicial review.

No person shall be finally bound by a judicial or quasi-judicial decision of an administrative agency affecting private rights except on due notice and an opportunity to be heard; nor shall he be subject to the same person for both prosecution and adjudication; nor shall he be deprived of liberty or property unless by a mode of procedure prescribed by the General Assembly, and he shall have in all such instances the right to judicial review.

SECTION 23. Provisions of Constitution mandatory.

The provisions of the Constitution shall be taken, deemed, and construed to be mandatory and prohibitory, and not merely directory, except where expressly made directory or permissory by its own terms.

SECTION 24. Victims' Bill of Rights.

(A) To preserve and protect victims' rights to justice and due process regardless of race, sex, age, religion, or economic status, victims of crime have the right to:

(1) be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, or abuse, throughout the criminal and juvenile justice process, and informed of the victim's constitutional rights, provided by statute;

(2) be reasonably informed when the accused or convicted person is arrested, released from custody, or has escaped;

(3) be informed of and present at any criminal proceedings which are dispositive of the charges where the defendant has the right to be present;

(4) be reasonably informed of and be allowed to submit either a written or oral statement at all hearings affecting bond or bail;

(5) be heard at any proceeding involving a post-arrest release decision, a plea, or sentencing;

(6) be reasonably protected from the accused or persons acting on his behalf throughout the criminal justice process;

(7) confer with the prosecution, after the crime against the victim has been charged, before the trial or before any disposition and informed of the disposition;

(8) have reasonable access after the conclusion of the criminal investigation to all documents relating to the crime against the victim before trial;

(9) receive prompt and full restitution from the person or persons convicted of the criminal conduct that caused the victim's loss or injury, including both adult and juvenile offenders;

(10) be informed of any proceeding when any post-conviction action is being considered, and be present at any post-conviction hearing involving a post-conviction release decision;

(11) a reasonable disposition and prompt and final conclusion of the case;

(12) have all rules governing criminal procedure and the admissibility of evidence in all criminal proceedings protect victims' rights and have these rules subject to amendment or repeal by the legislature to ensure protection of these rights.

(B) Nothing in this section creates a civil cause of action on behalf of any person against any public employee, public agency, the State, or any agency responsible for the enforcement of rights and provision of services contained in this section. The rights created in this section may be subject to a writ of mandamus, to be issued by any justice of the Supreme Court or circuit court judge to require compliance by any public employee, public agency, the State, or any agency responsible for the enforcement of the rights and provisions of these services contained in this section, and a wilful failure to comply with a writ of mandamus is punishable as contempt.

(C) For purposes of this section:

(1) A victim's exercise of any right granted by this section is not grounds for dismissing any criminal proceeding or setting aside any conviction or sentence.

(2) "Victim" means a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as the result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime against him. The term "victim" also includes the person's spouse, parent, child, or lawful representative of a crime victim who is deceased, who is a minor or who is incompetent or who was a homicide victim or who is physically or psychologically incapacitated.

(3) The General Assembly has the authority to enact substantive and procedural laws to define, implement, preserve, and protect the rights guaranteed to victims by this section, including the authority to extend any of these rights to juvenile proceedings.

(4) The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights for victims shall not be construed to deny or disparage others granted by the General Assembly or retained by victims. (1998 Act No. 259, Section 1, eff February 17, 1998.)

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