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Bouie v. City of Columbia

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendants were two African American college students sat in a restaurant and refused to leave after the store manager and the police told them to. “Defendants appeal convictions for trespassing as violations of the Due Process Clause.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A law which retroactively prohibits conduct of an individual without providing him with fair warning of the proscribed conduct violates the Ex Post Facto and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

    Facts.

    Bouie and another African American college student (Defendants) took seats in a booth in the restaurant department at Eckerd’s and wanted to be served. After they were seated, no one spoke to them or took their order. An employee put up a chain with a “no trespassing” sign attached. Defendants stayed seated and the store manager called the police. Defendants refused to leave after the police arrived and told them to leave. Defendants were then arrested and charged with breach of the peace and criminal trespass. Defendants were convicted for the trespass charge and Bouie was convicted of resisting arrest. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed Bouie’s resisting arrest conviction and affirmed Defendants’ trespassing charge. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

    Issue.

    Whether a law which retroactively prohibits conduct of an individual without providing him with fair warning of the proscribed conduct violates the Ex Post Facto and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

    Held.

    Yes. The South Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling is reversed. A law which retroactively prohibits conduct of an individual without providing him with fair warning of the proscribed conduct violates the Ex Post Facto and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

    Discussion.

    Although it was not enumerated in the state statute in question, the South Carolina Supreme Court here specifically expanded the meaning of the law to apply not only to entry onto the premises of another after receiving notice not to enter, but went further in applying to those who remain on the premises after receiving notice to leave. The court’s retroactive application to its new construction of the statute deprived Defendants of their right to fair warning of a criminal prohibition and violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, if the South Carolina Supreme Court applied to this case its new statute prohibiting the act of remaining on the premises of another after being asked to leave, the ex post facto laws would clearly invalidate the convictions. In United States v. Wiltberger, 5 L.Ed. 37 (1820), the Court stated “To determine that a case is within the intention of a statute, its language must authorize us to say so.” Here, the crime for which Defendants were convicted was “not enumerated” in the statute at the time of their conduct. Thus, they have been deprived of liberty and property without due process of law.


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