The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This simply means that whenever a person is taken into police custody, before being questioned he or she must be told of his or her Fifth Amendment right not to make any self-incriminating statements, but did you also know that the Fifth Amendment states that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation being paid to that landowner? The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights for people in both criminal and civil actions, including the right that you are to be paid just compensation when the government or a condemning authority takes private property from you. The duty to pay just compensation for a taking or acquisition of private property from you arises in both the Constitution of the State of South Carolina and the Constitution of the United States of America.
In South Carolina, specific laws have been created to make a standardized and uniform procedure for eminent domain procedures. The laws can be found in the South Carolina Eminent Domain Procedures Act at S.C. Code Ann. §28-2-10, et. seq. (1976, as amended). Central to a condemning authority’s ability to acquire real property from you is that the acquisition must be for a public purpose. You have the right to challenge the condemning authority’s right to condemn by filing a separate legal action against that condemning authority, but the challenger must be able to prove that the acquisition of the real property by the condemning authority is not for a public purpose (see S.C. Code Ann. §28-2-470). Furthermore, any challenge must be commenced within 30 days after the service of the Condemnation Notice on you.
What is just compensation and how do you know if it is fair? Before condemning your property, the condemning authority must appraise your property to determine what the value of the land being acquired is plus any damages to the remainder of the property, if any, will occur after the portion of property is taken. You have the right to employ your own appraiser to offer a separate or competing opinion as to the value of the just compensation. If you and the condemning authority cannot agree on the amount of just compensation, you have the right to a trial on that issue. However, at trial, you have the burden of proving your damages. The only issue at trial is the determination of what compensation you are entitled to for the taking of your property by the condemning authority.
As with any legal matter, a condemnation action has certain rules, procedures, and deadlines that must be followed and met. Hiring knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel that is familiar with these types of cases will protect your rights as a landowner and better serve you to navigate the complicated path that arrives at making sure that you have received just compensation for the taking of your property. The attorneys at Harrison White, P.C. are here to help. We have the knowledge and experience needed to provide you with dedicated and comprehensive representation in condemnation cases. Please call our office today at (864) 585-5100 to set up an appointment.
The posts on this website/blog are published as a service to our clients and friends. They are intended to provide general information only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice regarding any specific situation and should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. Success in the past does not indicate the likelihood of success in any future representation.
Blog post by Ryan McCarty. Click here to learn more about Ryan.