Heard November 20, 2013
Appeal from the Administrative Law Court. Appellate Case No. 2012-206988. Ralph King Anderson, III, Administrative Law Judge.
AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.
Deputy General Counsel Christopher D. Florian, of Columbia, for Petitioner.
Desa A. Ballard and Harvey M. Watson, both of Ballard Watson Weissenstein, of West Columbia, and Douglas Jennings, Jr., of Douglas Jennings Law Firm, LLC, of Bennettsville, all for Respondent.
JUSTICE HEARN. TOAL, C.J., BEATTY and KITTREDGE, JJ., concur. PLEICONES, J., concurring in a separate opinion.
[408 S.C. 337]
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
This case calls upon us to consider the authority of the Department of Corrections to alter its initial determination as to the length of an inmate's sentence. Following his conviction for one count of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN), one count of possession of a dangerous animal, and multiple counts of animal fighting, David Tant was remanded to the Department of Corrections. Upon receipt of his sentencing sheets, the Department recorded his sentence as fifteen years' imprisonment. However, the Department later determined the judge intended to sentence Tant to forty years' imprisonment and changed its records without notifying Tant.
We hold that when the Department decides its original recordation of a sentence was erroneous, it must afford the inmate formal notice of the amended sentence and advise him of his opportunity to be heard through the grievance procedure. Furthermore, the Department is generally confined to the face of the sentencing sheets in determining the length of a sentence, but may refer to the sentencing transcript if there is an ambiguity in the sentencing sheets. Because we find both the sentencing sheets and the transcript in this case are ambiguous, we hold Tant's sentences run concurrently for a total of fifteen years' imprisonment. Accordingly, we affirm the court of appeals' opinion as modified.
Land surveyor Steven Baker was injured on Tant's property when he set off a booby-trap that fired shotgun pellets at him. [408 S.C. 338] After law enforcement arrived to investigate the incident, the officers discovered several pit bulls and called Animal Control to process and seize the animals. The deputy in charge of processing the animals observed scars and other injuries on the dogs consistent with fighting, including puncture wounds. ...