State v. Manning, decided on May 7, 2014 by the Court of Appeals, erodes the protections of our state’s “Protection of Persons and Property Act,” S.C. Code Ann. §16-11-410, et. seq., which is also known as the “Castle Doctrine.” The Court of Appeals narrowly construed the statute only to protect a person when an intruder is or has entered a home unlawfully or someone is attempting to remove the homeowner from the dwelling against his/her will.
The plain language of the immunity provision of §16-11-410, however, protects anyone “who uses deadly force as permitted by the provisions of this article or another applicable provision of law” (emphasis added). Our General Assembly, in fact, expressly found “that no person or victim of crime should be required to surrender his personal safety to a criminal, nor should a person or victim be required to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack.” S.C. Code Ann. § 16-11-420(E). Thus, the statute’s protections extend to any law-abiding person exercising the right of self defense.
The South Carolina Supreme Court should review the Court of Appeals decision in State v. Manning, consider the expressed legislative intent of the “Protections of Persons and Property Act,” and enforce the plain meaning of the statute. But, will it? In 2013, that Court decided State v. Isaac, taking away the previously recognized right to appeal, pre-trial, an adverse Castle Doctrine ruling. These two cases raise concerns about whether the appellate courts are taking away protections extended by our General Assembly.