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DNA Ex Post Facto Issues Anthony Eubanks v. South Carolina Dep't of Corrections

March 26, 2009

IN RE: DNA EX POST FACTO ISSUES ANTHONY EUBANKS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; WILLIAM D. CATOE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR, SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; SOUTH CAROLINA LAW ENFORCEMENT DIVISION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. ET AL.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Charleston. R. Bryan Harwell, District Judge. (2:99-cv-05555-RBH; 2:99-cv-02195-MJP).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Traxler, Circuit Judge

PUBLISHED

Argued: January 28, 2009

Before TRAXLER, DUNCAN, and AGEE, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part by published opinion. Judge Traxler wrote the opinion, in which Judge Duncan and Judge Agee joined.

OPINION

Anthony Eubanks appeals a district court order granting summary judgment against him in his ex post facto challenge to a South Carolina law requiring that certain prisoners provide DNA samples for South Carolina's DNA bank and pay a $250 processing fee before being paroled or released. We affirm the district court's ruling regarding the constitutionality of the requirements that a sample be provided and that the processing fee be paid. We hold, however, that the provision requiring payment of the fee before the prisoner is paroled or released from confinement may not be enforced against Eubanks.

I.

Eubanks was convicted in state court of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and sentenced on April 6, 1995, to 28 years' imprisonment in the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"). The South Carolina General Assembly enacted the State Deoxyribonucleic Acid Identification Record Database Act, see S.C. Code Ann. §§ 23-3-600 et seq. (2008) ("the Act"), to become effective on July 1, 1995. The Act provided, as is relevant here, that "[a]t such time as possible and before parole or release from confinement, a suitable sample from which DNA may be obtained for inclusion in the State DNA Database must be provided by . . . a person who is convicted or adjudicated delinquent before July 1, 1995, and who was sentenced to and is serving a term of confinement on July 1, 1995, for . . . criminal sexual conduct in the first degree." S.C. Code Ann. § 23-2-620(B) (1999).*fn1

Throughout the time period relevant to this case, the Act provided:

(A) A person who is required to provide a sample pursuant to this article must pay a two hundred and fifty dollar processing fee which may not be waived by the court. If the person is incarcerated, the fee must be paid before the person is paroled or released from confinement and may be garnished from wages the person earns while incarcerated. If the person is not sentenced to a term of confinement, payment of the fee must be a condition of the person's sentence and may be paid in installments if so ordered by the court.

S.C. Code Ann. § 23-3-670 (2007). The processing fees are the primary source of funding for South Carolina's DNA database.

In 1999 SCDC began the process of obtaining the inmate samples and collecting the fees from their prison trust funds. Pursuant to this process, Eubanks was required to provide a sample and SCDC deducted the full processing fee from his trust account.

In 1999 Eubanks filed suit in federal district court under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West 2003) against SCDC, the State Law Enforcement Division ("SLED"), and former SCDC Director William D. Catoe (collectively, "the State"). Eubanks alleged that the requirements that each inmate provide a DNA sample to be included in the DNA database and that each pay a $250 processing fee violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution.

Eubanks' suit was consolidated with the pending suits of several other inmates in an order that limited plaintiffs to raising the ex post facto challenges discussed above. All other constitutional claims or challenges to the Act that were asserted in any of the consolidated suits were dismissed without prejudice. Eubanks did not subsequently file a separate action.

Reviewing cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court denied the plaintiffs' motion and granted summary judgment against them. The court ruled that the DNA-sample and processing-fee requirements were not ex post facto because they were not punitive. The court further concluded that the Act did not prohibit the parole or release of prisoners who had not paid their required fees.

II.

Eubanks now argues that the district court erred in granting summary ...


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