THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals
The State, Respondent,
Emmett Eddy, Appellant.
Appeal From Richland County
James C. Williams, Jr., Circuit Court Judge
Unpublished Opinion No. 2003-UP-708
Submitted September 17, 2003 – Filed December 9, 2003
Assistant Appellate Defender Aileen P. Clare, Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for Appellant.
Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Charles H. Richardson; and Solicitor Warren Blair Giese, all of Columbia, for Respondent.
PER CURIAM: Defendant Eddy appeals from the condition of his plea agreement that bars him from entering the state capital grounds. We affirm.
On April 17, 2003 Defendant Emmett Eddy climbed a latter to the Confederate Flag and set the flag on fire. He was then charged with defacing a public monument. Eddy appeared before Judge Williams. After extensive questioning by the judge to both Eddy and his attorney, Eddy pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended to probation for the two years. One of the conditions of his probation was a requirement that he not enter the state house grounds. The security officers had requested that condition because Eddy had previously handcuffed himself to a monument on the state house grounds. Eddy is appealing that condition.
Is the condition of Eddy’s probation unreasonable because it violates Eddy’s constitutional right to petition the government?
“Probation is a matter of grace.” State v. Hamilton, 333 S.C. 642, 648, 511 S.E.2d 94, 96, 97 (Ct. App. 1999). However, a court may not impose conditions that are unreasonable or disproportionate. It is well settled law that South Carolina citizens are entitled have a constitutional right to petition the government. See U.S. Const. Amends. 1,14; S.C. Const., Art. I § 2; Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, 394 U.S. 147 (1969). But that right is not absolute. See City of Darlington v. Stanley, 239 S.C. 139, 139, 122 S.E.2d 207, 109 (1961); City of Florence v. George, 241 S.C. 77, 127 S.E.2d 210, 211 (1962).
Here, Eddy had prior run-ins with law enforcement involving the state house grounds. Additionally, the judge found that Eddy understood the charge he was facing and willingly accepted the probation plea agreement, including the restriction about the state house grounds. Moreover, Eddy has failed to show how his right to petition the government has been violated. The conditions of his probation do not prevent him from protesting outside of the state house grounds in the same manner as any other protester. Therefore, the restriction imposed by the trial judge is not unreasonable or disproportionate. The judge acted within his discretion and was not arbitrary. See Hamilton, 333 S.C. 647, 511 S.E.2d 96 (“This [C]ourt’s authority to review [a probation] decision is confined to correcting errors of law unless … the circuit judge’s decision was arbitrary and capricious.”).
Moreover, an appellant, if he is to properly preserve the defectiveness of a plea agreement for appellate review, must raise that claim before the trial court. State v. Mckinney, 278 S.C. 107, 107, 292 S.E.2d 598, 598 (1982). That principle “is consistent with the general rule requiring a contemporaneous objection” and applies even when the objection involves “federal constitutional claims.” Id. Counsel’s petition to be relieved is granted.
Huff, Stilwell, and Beatty, JJ., concur.