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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Roy E. Cantrell vs. SLED

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

Roy E. Cantrell

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

David G. Pagliarini, Esquire, for the Petitioner

W. Rutledge Martin, Esquire, for the Respondent




This matter came before me pursuant to SC Code Annotated §§ 40-18-70 (F), 40-18-130 (A)(2), and 40-18-130(A)(15). The Petitioner, Roy E. Cantrell (Cantrell) requested a contested case hearing following the Respondent South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s (SLED’s) administrative decision revoking Cantrell’s private investigator license and assessing a monetary penalty of $3,200 for violations of the above-referenced statutes. After timely notice to the parties, a hearing was held on June 29, 2004, at the offices of the Administrative Law Court in Columbia. Based on the evidence and witnesses before me, judging the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses, I find that the Petitioner’s license should be suspended for six months, retroactive to the initial final determination, and the fine reduced to $1,600.


Having carefully considered all testimony, exhibits and arguments presented at the hearing in this case and taking into account the credibility and accuracy of the evidence, I find the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence:

1. Notice of the date, time, place and subject matter of the hearing was properly given to all the parties.

2. In July 2001, the Petitioner held a South Carolina Private Investigator’s license. He was contacted by an attorney in Easley (Erwin) to provide information for an ongoing domestic relations case. Specifically, Cantrell was asked to go to an address in Ravenel, SC and observe whether a specific individual (Rebecca Hill) was there with her minor child in violation of a court order. The attorney’s office faxed photographs of the individuals involved to Cantrell. The resolution and brightness on the faxed photos, however, made it difficult to discern the images clearly. A verbal description of the individuals and their vehicles was also provided to Cantrell.

3. Cantrell conducted the surveillance as requested. He observed a person that he identified as Rebecca Hill holding the child in question. He attempted to contact the attorney in Easley, but was unsuccessful. He did speak with the attorney’s clients (the paternal grandparents) who were involved in the domestic relations case.

4. Over the course of the weekend, Mr. Cantrell conducted surveillance at the house he had identified as belonging to the maternal grandparents of the child, Mr. and Mrs. Hill. He made several attempts to contact the attorney Erwin over the course of the weekend, but was unsuccessful. He did speak with Erwin on the following Monday morning.

5. At the request of the attorney who hired him, Mr. Cantrell prepared and signed an affidavit stating that he had observed Rebecca Hill with the minor child “based upon the photographs and physical description given”. This affidavit was submitted to the family court in the domestic dispute.

6. Mr. Cantrell testified that he sent a “reservation of rights” letter to Mr. Erwin that Mr. Cantrell would be called to testify in the family court case in order to make a positive identification of the individuals involved. There was, however, no written agreement to that effect. Mr. Cantrell was not called to testify, but his affidavit was submitted to the court. The attorney testified on cross-examination at the ALC hearing that he asked the family court at some time not to rely on the petitioner’s affidavit due to the petitioner’s possible perjury charge.

7. Cantrell testified that he had faxed a standard, computer-generated contract to the attorney, but not to the attorney’s clients, Mr. and Mrs. Ray. Mr. Erwin could not recall whether he had received a contract at the time of the surveillance.

7. In December 2001, Cantrell was contacted by a SLED agent who wanted to see his file on the case referred to above. SLED indicated that there were allegations of false testimony arising from the file. The SLED agents seized his computer.

8. Cantrell met with SLED several times, including touring the property where the surveillance had taken place. He signed a statement which the SLED agent had drafted setting forth the specifics of the surveillance and the contact with the attorney. There were discrepancies in his accounts of the surveillance and the actual property, as well as discrepancies in the physical descriptions of the parties involved in the domestic dispute as reported.

9. In February 2003, Cantrell appeared in General Sessions court in Charleston County and entered an “Alford plea” to the charges of “Failure of a Private Investigator to Have a Written Contract,” SC Code Ann. §40-18-150 and “Violation of Private Investigator Licensing Statutes,” SC Code Ann. §40-18-150. He testified that he wished to avoid the time and expense of a trial. Footnote

10. Following the visit with SLED when his computer was seized, Cantrell contacted Mr. Erwin, the attorney who had hired him in this domestic matter, and attempted to reconstruct his file which Cantrell testified was missing. He further testified that he was not attempting to have the attorney construct false documentation.

11. Cantrell also testified that he did not generally do investigations for Family Court, other than Guardian Ad Litem work. He testified that his investigative time for Family Court proceedings comprises less than 1% of his business.


Based upon the above Findings of Fact, I conclude the following as a matter of law:

1. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-600 (Supp. 2003) grants jurisdiction to the Administrative Law Court to hear contested cases under the Administrative Procedures Act. Furthermore, S.C. Code Ann. § 40-18-130 (C) grants the Court the responsibility to determine contested matters concerning the revocation of private investigator’s licenses.

2.S.C. Code Ann. § 40-18-130 (A) permits SLED to revoke a private investigator’s license for

(2) ma[king] a false statement or giv[ing] false information in connection with activities conducted pursuant to a license issued under this chapter.

(7) . . . . convict[ion] of or plead[ing] guilty to a crime since becoming a licensed investigator which would, upon conviction, disqualify the person for licensing or registration;

(15) willfully obstruct[ing] an official investigation by a law enforcement officer.

3. Addressing § 40-18-130 (A)(7) above, under S.C. Code Ann. § 40-18-70 (E) (Supp. 2004), “SLED may grant a license to a person who: (4) has not been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude.” In this case, the Petitioner entered a plea under North Carolina v. Alford, Id. to “Failure of a Private Investigator to Secure a Contract” and “Violation of Private Investigator Licensing Statutes.” Neither of these crimes is a felony (see § 40-18-150), nor would either appear to be a crime of moral turpitude. See e.g. Sanders and Nichols, Trial Handbook for South Carolina Lawyers, 2d ed. §13.16 (2001).

4. S. C. Code Ann. § 40-18-130 (B) vests SLED with extremely broad discretion regarding the sanction to be imposed. It provides:

For violations of this chapter or any regulation pertaining to this chapter,

SLED may, in its discretion, impose a civil monetary penalty upon the

holder of a license or registration certificate in lieu of suspension or

revocation. Security company and private investigator company

licensees are subject to a monetary penalty of not less than twenty-five nor more than one thousand dollars for each offense. Registered security officers and registered private investigators are subject to a penalty of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than five hundred dollars for each offense. SLED may, in its discretion, accept an offer in compromise or suspend payment of a fine or a monetary penalty imposed under this section.” (emphasis added)

In this case, SLED had the right to revoke Petitioner’s license based solely on the fact that he failed to execute a written contract with his client before commencing services, in violation of S. C. Code Ann. § 40-18-70(F). Footnote Moreover, imposing a $3,200 fine was also within its discretion. It is unclear, however, whether the Respondent can do both. Footnote However, because §40-18-130 (C) provides a right of appeal to this Court, this Court must exercise its discretion in determining whether the sanction is proper based on all the evidence in the record.


There is substantial evidence in the record that Petitioner did not have a signed contract with his client. In addition, he improperly identified Rebecca Hill, and his file management and record-keeping skills were deficient in this case. There is substantial evidence in the record that Petitioner not only refused to admit his errors, but that he tried to conceal them.

Based on a review of the entire record, I find that the revocation of Petitioner’s license is unduly harsh, and that the license should be suspended for a period of six months. It is clear from the record that Petitioner did not have a contract with the Rays. This entire chapter of the code was amended effective June 6, 2000, only one year prior to the surveillance at issue. The statute, however, is unclear whether the private investigator is required to enter into a contract with an individual who has retained an attorney, or whether the “client” may be an attorney acting on behalf of a client.

The affidavit which Petitioner provided to Mr. Erwin was introduced at a Family Court proceeding in which the S. C. Department of Social Services [D.S.S.] attempted to suspend all visitation by Rebecca Hill with her daughter, Morgan Ray. Petitioner was not called as a witness at that hearing.

However, Mr. Erwin testified he asked the Family Court to disregard Petitioner’s affidavit, and that the affidavit was not a significant reason why neither Rebecca nor her parents no longer had visitation with her daughter. Rebecca’s parental rights were terminated, and custody was awarded to the Ray grandparents, based on Rebecca’s failure to see her daughter for more than one year. Footnote According to Attorney Erwin, Rebecca Hill was denied visitation based on the facts that (1) she failed to complete a D.S. S. Treatment Plan; (2) she had no job nor any permanent residence; (3) she had a prior criminal record, including convictions for shoplifting, public drunkenness, and providing false information to police. At the time of this hearing, Rebecca Hill was deceased.

There are numerous mitigating circumstances for imposing a lesser sanction than license revocation, including the fact that Petitioner has been licensed since 1984, and has no prior violations. In 2001, Petitioner was named “Investigator of the Year” by the S. C. Association of Legal Investigators and Respondent SLED. Petitioner volunteers regularly for the S. C. Guardian ad Litem program and has been honored for 1000 hours of community service to that organization, and has received numerous other community service awards. He was an instructor at Quantico Marine Base and has training at the South Carolina Fire Academy, Insurance training and Accident Reconstructionist training. As noted, he appears to have some difficulty with the organizational aspects of his business. I find, however, that the Petitioner understands the nature of his misdeeds, that domestic cases are not a regular part of his business, and that he has performed well in his field, other than this one instance. Based on the record before me, I find that the Petitioner’s license should be suspended for six months, retroactive to the initial final determination, and that the fine shall be reduced to one thousand, six hundred dollars.




Administrative Law Judge

March 29, 2005

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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