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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Michael Daniel Stanley, #258754 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Michael Daniel Stanley, #258754

South Carolina Department of Corrections





This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Michael Daniel Stanley, an inmate incarcerated with the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("Department") since June 3, 1999. Inmate Stanley filed a grievance on February 16, 2001, and received a final agency decision from the Department. On April 18, 2001, Inmate Stanley filed this appeal with Division. The Appellant claims the Department erred in interpreting his sentence.


On June 3, 1999, Michael Daniel Stanley was sentenced by the Honorable Alexander A. Macaulay for Failure to Stop a Vehicle Involved in an Accident when Death Occurs in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1210(A)(3) (Supp. 1997), and Reckless Homicide in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2910 (Supp. 1997). (1) Mr. Stanley was immediately taken into custody by the Department and classified as eligible for parole. Thereafter, pursuant to a 1993 amendment to S.C. Code Ann. § 16-1-30 (Supp. 1997), the Department re-classified the Appellant as an inmate subject to a non-parolable offense. As a result of the Department's action, counsel for Inmate Stanley requested that he be re-classified as a parolable offender. The Department originally complied with Inmate Stanley's request. However, the Department reversed its position and made a final determination that Inmate Stanley is not eligible for parole, requiring service of eighty-five percent of the sentence imposed.

On February 16, 2001, Inmate Stanley filed a grievance, complaining that he should be classified as eligible for parole. In response, the Warden informed Inmate Stanley that the Office of General Counsel determined that the classification of his offense was non-parolable and, therefore, that he was required to serve eighty-five percent of his sentence. Inmate Stanley then appealed his grievance to the Department, alleging that the Office of General Counsel's determination was not consistent with the stipulations of his plea bargain. The Department's Final Decision, issued on April 9, 2001, denied Inmate Stanley's grievance regarding his complaint that he had been wrongfully classified.


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 (S.C. 2000). In Al-Shabazz, the Supreme Court created a new avenue by which inmates could seek review of final decisions of the Department in "non-collateral" matters, i.e., matters in which an inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence, by appealing those decisions to the Division and ultimately to circuit court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. In its appellate capacity, the Division is primarily concerned with ensuring that the Appellants receive all procedural process they are due.

As in all cases subject to appellate review by the Division, the standard of review in these inmate grievance cases is limited to the record presented. An Administrative Law Judge may not substitute his judgment for that of an agency unless the agency's determination is 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. Section 1-23-380(A)(6) (Supp. 2001); Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 380, 527 S.E.2d at 756; Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 276 S.E.2d 304 (1981). Moreover, to afford "meaningful judicial review," the Administrative Law Judge must "adequately explain" his decision by "documenting the findings of fact" and basing his decision on "reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record." Al-Shabazz at 756.


The Appellant claims he should not be an eighty-five percent, no parole offender pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-100 (Supp. 1998) due to the stipulations of his plea bargain. (2) However, the Appellant did not provide the Department with any court transcript or documentation to indicate that the Appellant would be eligible for parole or that the court meant to commit the Appellant to the jurisdiction of the Department under a different statute, i.e., a parol eligible offense. Furthermore, though the Appellant has filed an affidavit of the Appellant, his attorney and family members with the Division, that evidence is not admissible in this proceeding. S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380 (5) (Supp. 2001) provides that: "The review shall be conducted by the court without a jury and shall be confined to the record." Moreover, those affidavits do not sufficiently establish that the sentencing court intended that the Appellant be eligible for parole. Nevertheless, the Appellant may seek to raise this issue in another forum. (3)

The Appellant also contends that S.C. Code Ann. Section 16-1-90(B), entitled "Crimes Classified as Felonies," was only recently amended to include Section 56-5-1210(A)(3) as a Class B felony and, therefore, he presumptively was not convicted of a non-parolable offense. The Appellant was convicted of S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1210(A)(3), Failure to Stop a Vehicle Involved in an Accident when Death Occurs, with an offense date of September 12, 1998. Effective June 4, 1996, Section 56-5-1210 was amended to create three separate criminal offenses with three separate punishments depending on the severity of the injury to the accident victim. Section 56-5-1210 (A)(3) provided that a person convicted of that offense was guilty of "a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not less than one year nor more than twenty-five years. . . ." However, at the time of the Appellant's offense, Section 56-5-1210(A)(3) was not specifically listed as a Class B felony under Section 16-1-90.

Nevertheless, S.C. Code Ann. § 16-1-30 states that: "All criminal offenses created by statute after July 1, 1993, must be classified according to the maximum term of imprisonment provided in the statute and pursuant to Sections 16-1-10 and 16-1-20. . . ." To that end, S.C. Code Ann. § 16-1-20(A) provided that: "A person convicted of classified offenses, must be imprisoned as follows:

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(2) for a Class B felony, not more than twenty-five years."

Therefore, Sections 16-1-20(A) and 16-1-30 act collectively as a "catch-all" provision for those felonies that may not have been specifically listed under Section 16-1-90.

The cardinal rule of statutory construction is that the court is to ascertain and effectuate the actual intent of the legislature. In determining this intent, statutes which are part of the same act must be construed together and each one given effect, if it can be done by any reasonable construction. Burns v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 297 S.C. 520, 377 S.E.2d 569 (1989); Higgins v. State, 307 S.C. 446, 415 S.E.2d 799 (1992). Therefore, Section 16-1-90(B) must not be read in isolation, but must be considered in conjunction with the entire framework of the categorization of felonies and misdemeanors throughout Title 16. Although the Failure to Stop a Vehicle Involved in an Accident when Death Occurs was not specifically listed in the 1997 Cumulative Supplement, the Legislature intended that all statutory offenses be classified according to the maximum term of imprisonment as set forth in Section 16-1-20. See S.C. Code Ann. Section 16-1-30. Consequently, the Appellant was convicted of a Class B felony under Section 56-5-1210(A)(3) and, as a result, it is a "no parole" offense under Section 24-13-100. Furthermore, the fact that Section 16-1-90(B) now provides that Section 56-5-1210(A)(3) is a Class B felony enhances the interpretation the legislature originally intended that Section 56-5-1210 (A)(3) be a Class B felony. See S.C. Code Ann. § 16-1-90(B) (Supp. 2001).


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED and the appeal of Inmate Stanley is DENIED.


Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

February 14, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

1. The 1997 Cumulative Supplement is cited because it contained the law that was in effect at the time of the Appellant's offenses. The offenses for which Inmate Stanley was sentenced arise out of an accident that occurred on September 12, 1998.

2. S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-100 (Supp. 1998) provides that: "For purposes of definition under South Carolina law, a 'no parole offense' means a class A, B, or C felony or an offense exempt from classification as enumerated in Section 16-1-10(d), which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment for twenty years or more." Furthermore, pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-150 (Supp. 1998), a prisoner convicted of a no parole offense is not eligible for early release "until the prisoner has served at least eighty-five percent of the actual term of imprisonment imposed." This percentage is calculated without the application of earned work credits, education credits, or good conduct credits. Sections 24-13-100 and 24-13-150 were effective January 1, 1996.

3. In Al-Shabazz v. State, the Supreme Court held that "PCR is a proper avenue of relief. . . when the applicant mounts a collateral attack challenging the validity of his conviction or sentence as authorized by Section 17-27-20(a)." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 367, 527 S.E.2d at 749.

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