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Crime and Punishment September 28, 2015

Posted by F. McCollum in Welcome!.

In the United States we imprison more of our citizens than ANY OTHER country on the planet, and not just by a little. Even though we account for 5% of the population on this third rock from the sun, our prisoners account for 25% of the total planet’s prison population. Some are quick to say, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”, but there are so many criminal offenses that no one even knows how many there are in total. We discussed the Libertarian Party Platform in last month’s column, and the very first item was that “the government has no business writing laws to regulate our personal behavior unless that behavior harms other people”.

This is not an article about the Drug War, as some might expect. Local city ordinances passed in recent years bring with them heavy penalties for seemingly minor violations. Elected officials have passed wide-reaching ordinances to govern how residents choose to live their lives on their own property.

Things you can go to jail for in Tega Cay:

  • Displaying in your yard a standard yard sale sign bought at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
  • Failing to get a city permit for your dog. Molon Labe.
  • Shooting a paint ball gun in your backyard
  • Lighting a fire in your backyard, even in a safe ring or designated area
  • Killing a snake without a permit
  • Parking within 30 feet of a stop sign. Note that this is already a state law, but it is punishable by a simple ticket, there is no chance of losing your freedom in any other city in the state of South Carolina for parking near a stop sign, except for Tega Cay.
  • Saying a cuss word at the marina. Seriously, this is up to a $500 fine and 30 days in prison so better not mutter anything offensive under your breath while trying to launch the boat.
  • Going over idle speed within 100’ of the shore – Friday night’s ski show at Windjammer is going to have to cease operations to comply with this law, or we’re going to have to throw those kids in jail.

Not knowing the law is no excuse. All of the local violations listed above are in Ordinance 70, which is an extremely detailed and complex code of rules covering a wide range of our daily lives from yard sale signs to permits needed to kill snakes. If you download a complete copy of the ordinances of Tega Cay it is over 105,261 words long, which is longer than the typical novel. Hunger Games only has 99,750 words, for comparison, but if you forget some detail from a page in Hunger Games you do not go to jail.

In September 2015 I parked a boat trailer at a commercial business inside the Tega Cay city limits – there is no law prohibiting parking a boat trailer at a commercial business. Tega Cay has an ordinance (Ordinance 70.11 Section 26-31, passed in December 2013) that regulates parking at residences and prohibits the occupation of RVs within the city, but the ordinance does not prohibit parking on commercial property. The police chief stated that “You may not park the boat anywhere in the City without a 3 day permit”. I took it to the mayor of Tega Cay, who created the new boat trailer ordinance with the current city council during 2013 and the reply was “I believe the Police Chief is correct in the interpretation of the law.” They are both wrong, however – obviously we have a marina full of boats and trailers, none of which have a permit. We’re all human and subject to mistakes, but the violations can result in imprisonment, so it is important that we get this right. Neither the legislative representatives that voted the laws in less than two years ago, nor the police who are tasked with implementation, understand this law. This is a major concern given that the penalties include imprisonment and very high fines.

It is time for us to take a closer look at the local city governments. Creating laws that can result in the loss of a citizen’s freedom should be done with the utmost care, and held to the highest standards practiced in our community. Personally, I can think of several cases where imprisonment is a just and fair result of one’s actions, but all of these crimes are already governed by State and Federal law. The men and women that provide law enforcement services to the City of Tega Cay are honorable men and women, but they are being put into a tenuous position of sacking citizens with unjust penalties for what amount to minor violations that most citizens likely do not even know about.

Every member currently sitting on city council voted in favor of Ordinance 70. It would be interesting to hear the opinions of the two incumbents who are running for office in a few weeks on why they passed such a heavy handed set of laws. Do we really want to from laws that imprison someone for a yard sale sign?

More info: www.yclp.org, or: www.sclp.org, or: www.lp.org,

Facebook: York County Libertarian Party (SC) – MeetUp: York County LP


1. F. McCollum - October 22, 2015

Bill Henson questioned whether the punishments were actually as severe as stated in this article. As such a link and excerpt from Ordinance 70, Section 26-91 is below:


Sec. 26-91. – Penalties.

Violation of any section or provision of this chapter shall be punishable by a fine of not more than prescribed by South Carolina law, or imprisonment for not more than 30 days. The court may, in addition to the fine imposed under the provisions of this chapter, impose litter-gathering labor or similar public services as the court may order under the supervision of the court.

Each day that any violation of the provisions of this chapter shall exist or continue after notice thereof shall constitute a separate offense.

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