South Carolina v. Pfeiffer

In 2013, respondent Frederick Pfeiffer pled guilty to criminal conspiracy and two counts of securities fraud. The State and Pfeiffer entered into a negotiated plea. It was uncontested that the trial court sentenced Pfeiffer in accordance with the negotiated plea agreement. A dispute quickly arose with the South Carolina Department of Correction's interpretation of the sentencing sheets. To resolve any confusion, Pfeiffer timely filed his first Rule 29(a) motion to correct the clerical errors, which resulted in a hearing. Without objection, the trial court entered an amended sentence clarifying the sentencing sheets. On the same date, Pfeiffer's codefendant was sentenced. Pfeiffer believed his sentence was unduly harsh in comparison to his codefendant's sentence. As a result, twenty-nine days after the original sentence, Pfeiffer filed a second Rule 29(a) motion seeking a reduced sentence based on the codefendant's lighter sentence. As noted, there was never a suggestion Pfeiffer's original sentence was contrary to the negotiated plea agreement. Rather, the negotiated plea specifically allowed the State to control the order and timing of Pfeiffer and his codefendant's pleas and sentencing proceedings. The State argued that Pfeiffer's second motion was untimely because more than ten days had elapsed since the original sentencing and the second motion was in no manner related to the first. The trial court, however, found the motion was timely, and granted Pfeiffer's second motion by reducing his sentence. The issue this case presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's review centered on whether, after the disposition of an initial Rule 29(a) motion, and more than ten days after imposition of the sentence, did the trial court have jurisdiction to hear a second Rule 29(a) motion? The Court held the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear a second Rule 29(a) motion, unless the second motion challenged something that was altered from the original sentence as a result of the initial Rule 29(a) motion. View "South Carolina v. Pfeiffer" on Justia Law