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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Raymond Weinhauer, Jr., #208879 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Raymond Weinhauer, Jr., #208879

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division (Division or ALJD) pursuant to the appeal of Raymond Weinhauer, Jr., (Appellant) an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections (Department). On April 27, 1999, the Appellant was convicted of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.10, Use or Possession of Narcotics, Marijuana or Unauthorized Prescription Drugs after pleading guilty to the charge. As a result of his conviction, the Appellant lost 240 days of "good-time" credit. Weinhauer filed a grievance with the Department and received the Department's final decision on August 12,1999. On March 14, 2000, Weinhauer filed this appeal.


On April 19, 1999, the Appellant was administered a random drug test for marijuana and cocaine at the McCormick Correctional Institute. The Appellant tested positive for marijuana. He then requested a confirmation test be performed which also tested positive.

After the incident, Corporal Shealy, who administered the drug test, completed an Incident Report and submitted it to his supervisor. The Appellant was charged with violating SCDC Code 1.10, Use or Possession of Narcotics, Marijuana or Unauthorized Drugs. The Appellant received written notice of the charges on April 22, 1999. The hearing was held on April 27, 1999, before a Disciplinary Hearing Officer, who read into the Record a narrative of Corporal Shealy's Incident Report. During the hearing, the Appellant waived his right to be represented by counsel substitute and pleaded guilty to the charge. At the conclusion of the hearing, the DHO informed the Appellant that his guilty plea had been accepted and that he would be sanctioned with the loss of 240 days of good time credit. After the hearing, the DHO completed a Major Disciplinary Report and Hearing Record, which documented the DHO's findings based on the Appellant's guilty plea.

The Appellant filed a grievance on May 18, 1999, appealing his conviction of violating SCDC Disciplinary Code 1.10. In that grievance, he alleged that when he was originally incarcerated for the sentence he is now serving and that the punishment for a first offense "use or possession" of marijuana was only 20 days. In addition, the Appellant alleges that "lifers and those serving 85% sentences" are punished less severely because they only loose canteen and phone privileges when convicted of "use or possession" of marijuana. Finally, the Appellant alleges that the maximum penalty for possession of marijuana "in society" was only 30 days in jail.

On June 15, 1999, the Warden denied the Appellant's grievance. He appealed the Warden's decision on June 22, 1999, asking that the Department reconsider its institutional policy that supported the revocation of 240 days of good time credit for use of marijuana. The Department denied his grievance, stating that the evidence supported the conviction and that the sanction imposed was appropriate for the violation that the Appellant committed. This appeal followed. In his Appellate Brief, the Appellant alleges that the record supplied by the Department is "insufficient to facilitate appellate review." He also contends that the Department's decision was based upon error of law and constitutes an abuse of discretion.


The Division's jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived entirely from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). In McNeil v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 00-ALJ-04-00336-AP (September 5, 2001) the Division issued an En Banc Order interpreting the breadth of its jurisdiction pursuant to Al-Shabazz. That decision holds that the Division's appellate jurisdiction in inmate appeals is limited to two types of cases: (1) cases in which an inmate contends that prison officials have erroneously calculated his sentence, sentence-related credits, or custody status; and (2) cases in which the Department has taken an inmate's created liberty interest as punishment in a major disciplinary hearing.

In this case, the Appellant alleges that the Department excessively revoked 240 days of good time. Inmates have a protected liberty interest in their earned statutory good-time credits under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, when, as here, the Department revokes an inmate's good-time credits as punishment in a "major disciplinary hearings" involving "more serious rule violations," prison officials must provide that inmate with "minimal due process." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. Consequently, specific administrative procedures must be followed before depriving an inmate of statutorily granted earned credit, including adequate advance notice of the charges, adequate opportunity for a hearing in which the inmate can present witnesses and documentary evidence, and an impartial hearing officer who prepares a written statement of all the evidence presented and the reasons for his decision. Al-Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 751, citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-72, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 2978-82 (1974).

In Al-Shabazz, the Court held that inmates may seek review before this Division to ensure that the Department's revocation of good-time credits as punishment in a "major disciplinary hearing" involving "more serious rule violations" comports with "minimal due process." The ALJD inquiry into these matters is primarily concerned with ensuring that the Department has granted aggrieved inmates the process they are due when their constitutional rights are implicated. Id. When reviewing the Department's decisions in inmate grievance matters, the ALJD sits in an appellate capacity. Id. Consequently, the review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the record presented. Furthermore, an Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency unless the agency's determination is arbitrary, affected by error of law, or is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the whole record. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A)(6) (1986 & Supp. 2001); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756. "'Substantial evidence' is not a mere scintilla of evidence nor the evidence viewed blindly from one side of the case, but is evidence which, considering the record as a whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion that the administrative agency reached or must have reached in order to justify its action." Lark v. Bi-Lo, 276 S.C. 130, 135, 276 S.E.2d 304, 306 (1981). Furthermore, the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being supported by substantial evidence. Grant v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 319 S.C. 348, 461 S.E.2d 388 (1995).

Additionally, in Superintendent, Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 105 S.Ct. 2768 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board." Moreover, in Al-Shabazz, the Court underscored that since prison officials are in the best position to decide inmate disciplinary matters, that the Courts and therefore this Division adhere to a "hands off" approach to internal prison disciplinary policies and procedures when reviewing inmate appeals under the APA. Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 382, 527 S.E.2d at 757; See also Pruitt v. State, 274 S.C. 565, 266 S.E.2d 779 (1980) (stating the traditional "hands off" approach of South Carolina Courts regarding internal prison discipline and policy).

I find that the Appellant was afforded all process due him pursuant to Al-Shabazz. The Record indicates that the Appellant received written notice of the charges against him in excess of twenty-four (24) hours prior to a hearing that was held before an impartial Disciplinary Hearing Officer. At the hearing, the Appellant was given the opportunity to offer evidence, call witnesses, and confront his accuser. In addition, although not constitutionally required, the Appellant was afforded the right to counsel substitute to assist him in his defense which he waived. After the DHO determined that the Appellant was guilty of the charged offense, he prepared a written report detailing the evidence he relied upon and the penalty assessed in finding the Appellant guilty of the disciplinary infraction. Finally, the Appellant was permitted to appeal the DHO's decision through the inmate grievance process.

Moreover, I find that there is substantial evidence to support the Appellant's conviction of violating DOC Disciplinary Code § 1.10, The Use or Possession of Narcotics, Marijuana, or Unauthorized Drugs, Including Prescription Drugs. The record reflects that the Appellant pled guilty to possession marijuana. Additionally, a § 1.10 violation, in part, is: "Any inmate testing positive for any unauthorized drug, refusing to submit to a drug test, or failing to produce a specimen within three (3) hours as specified in SCDC Policy/Procedure GA-30.03." The record clearly supports the facts recited in the "Background" portion of this Order. Those facts establish substantial evidence that both tests were properly administered and, thereafter, that the Appellant tested positive for an "unauthorized drug."

Additionally, it is irrelevant that the 240 days of good-time credit the Department revoked from the Appellant as punishment for using marijuana exceeds the 30-day maximum sentence for a first conviction for the possession of less than twenty-eight (28) grams of marijuana under S.C. Code Ann. § 44-53-370(d)(3) (Supp. 2001). The Appellant was properly charged with a violation of, and punished under, the Department's Disciplinary Code, not Section 44-53-370. Furthermore, it must be recognized that prison disciplinary offenses and the punishments imposed for violations of them do not, and need not, correspond to provisions in non-prison-related criminal statutes. See Hill, supra. ("Revocation of good time credits is not comparable to a criminal conviction. . . .").


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the appeal of the Appellant is DISMISSED and the Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED;



Ralph K. Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

July 22, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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