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Bouie v. City of Columbia

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant, a black male, entered a restaurant without knowing that he was not welcome there. After being told he was not welcome there, Defendant refused to leave. Defendant was subsequently charged with and convicted of criminal trespass.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The ex post facto and due process clauses of the United States Constitution are being violated when a law retroactively prohibits conduct of an individual without providing him with fair warning of the proscribed conduct.

    Facts.

    Bouie (Defendant), a black college student, and a friend, entered a drug store restaurant and sat down at the counter, despite not being welcome at the restaurant. According to a South Carolina law, it was a misdemeanor for one to enter an owner’s land after notice from the owner that he or she is prohibited from entering. Defendant did not have notice that he was not welcome before entering the owner’s restaurant. Defendant was ordered to leave the restaurant and Defendant refused to do so. Due to this refusal, Defendant and his friend were arrested and charged with criminal trespass in violation of the South Carolina law. They were convicted and appealed. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the state law, stating that the act of remaining on the premises of an owner after receiving notice to leave is still considered a violation of the state law. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    Are the ex post facto and due process clauses of the United States Constitution being violated when a law retroactively prohibits conduct of an individual without providing him with fair warning of the proscribed conduct?

    Held.

    Yes. The ex post facto and due process clauses of the United States Constitution are being violated when a law retroactively prohibits conduct of an individual without providing him with fair warning of the proscribed conduct. Here, the crime for which Defendant was charged was not enumerated in the South Carolina law at the time of his conduct. Therefore, Defendant has been deprived of liberty and property without due process of law. The United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the South Carolina Supreme Court.

    Discussion.

    The South Carolina Supreme Court expanded the meaning of the South Carolina law to apply to not only entry onto the premises of an owner after receiving notice not to enter, but also to remaining on the premises after receiving notice to leave. Remaining on the premises after receiving notice not to leave was not enumerated in the state law at the time Defendant committed the act. The Court’s retroactive application to its new construction of the law deprived Defendant the right to fair warning of criminal conduct and thus violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Applying Defendant’s case to its new statute prohibiting the act of remaining on an owner’s premises after being told to leave would violate the ex post facto laws as well.


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