If you have been accused of a crime, the only thing standing between your continued freedom and harsh legal penalties is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer in Folly Beach, SC. That may seem harsh, but in this time of turmoil and uncertainty, having a skilled and dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your side is key. Because the truth is that dealing with legal charges in Folly Beach can be a highly distressing ordeal, with even minor violations causing a considerable impact on an individual's personal and work life. The repercussions of having a criminal record can be severe, leading to loss of employment, severed relationships, and even alienation from loved ones.
At Theos Law Firm, we offer trustworthy legal representation to those who need it most. Our criminal defense team has years of experience and is committed to ensuring our clients maintain their freedom and can move forward with their lives. From handling drug-related charges to more nuanced federal cases and sexual misconduct offenses, we take a personalized approach to every case. By utilizing cutting-edge legal strategies and decades of combined experience, we have a much better opportunity to achieve the best possible client outcomes.
We help clients overcome criminal charges in a wide range of cases, including the following:
If you are facing one or more of the charges above, it's imperative that you establish contact with a legal advocate ASAP. At Theos Law, you can rest easy knowing our phone line is always open. When your future is up for grabs, let our team of criminal defense lawyers fight for your rights. It all starts with a free consultation at our law firm in Folly Beach, where we'll educate you on the particulars of the charges you're facing and explain the next steps ahead.
At this point, you probably have many questions in mind. Keep reading for more information on criminal law in South Carolina and some of our criminal defense specialties at Theos Law.
In South Carolina, criminal cases are classified into different categories based on the severity of the crime. Generally speaking, offenses that carry a maximum sentence of three years or less are categorized as misdemeanors. On the other hand, crimes that carry a punishment of more than three years in prison are generally classified as felonies.
Crimes in The Palmetto State are usually split into two categories: state crimes and federal crimes. Classifications are based on whether a crime violates state laws or federal laws. Ultimately, it's up to the prosecutor to decide which category to pursue charges under. State crimes generally include assault, robbery, domestic violence, theft, and rape. Federal crimes, on the other hand, may be more complex and can include computer crime, major drug trafficking, hate crimes, and money laundering. These types of crimes are often investigated by agencies like the FBI or IRS.
Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony crime can be challenging for someone facing their first charge. Misdemeanors are generally considered minor offenses, resulting in fines or a short stay in a local county jail. Trials and plea deals for these cases move quickly due to their nature.
Conversely, felonies are more severe crimes classified by degrees, with first-degree being the most severe and sixth-degree being the least. Those charged with a felony may face significant fines and a prison sentence of over a year in a federal or state institution. Convicted felons may face difficulties after their release, making it crucial to have a reliable criminal defense attorney in Folly Beach, SC.
It is not uncommon for legal cases to be resolved outside of court through a plea deal. This allows the defendant to acknowledge their guilt on one or more charges without the need for a trial. Both your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor collaborate to come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement, which helps avoid the uncertainties and dangers of a trial. By accepting a plea deal, you may receive a lighter sentence and avoid the anxiety that comes with a lengthy legal battle.
At Theos Law Firm, we often receive questions from potential clients about when they should hire a criminal defense attorney for the charges that they're facing. Although each situation and client are unique, there are some common criminal situations to keep in mind. In general, it's always best to reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as you're charged or have been arrested.
Below are some guidelines to help you decide when it's necessary to retain a criminal defense attorney for your case in South Carolina.
Thinking about hiring a criminal defense lawyer when you're charged with a crime is a no-brainer for most, and for good reason. A defense lawyer can offer assistance with various offenses, ranging from minor crimes like retail theft and cyberstalking to more serious ones such as sexual assault and manslaughter. Regardless of the charges, navigating the legal system can be complex, and without the guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the situation can escalate rapidly.
As you may have observed in movies or television shows, the police might request you to provide a statement, giving the impression that you are not under arrest. If they suspect you of committing a crime but lack sufficient evidence to detain you, they may aim to put you at ease and elicit information that can be used against you. Remember, it is within your rights to have a criminal defense attorney in Folly Beach, SC, present during questioning, and you should absolutely use that to your advantage.
In the event that law enforcement officers arrive at your residence with a warrant, it indicates that a judge has determined there is reasonable suspicion that evidence related to a criminal offense is present in your home. Regardless of whether they discover and confiscate anything, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a seasoned defense attorney to discuss the situation and receive assistance in determining any potential charges or locations they may investigate in the future.
Could you imagine being accused of something you didn't do? When law enforcement, a judge, or a prosecutor accuses you of committing a crime that you didn't do, it can be an arduous task to prove your innocence, especially if you have a prior record. It can also feel hopeless and like it's impossible for you to get someone to listen to your side. The truth is that your past mistakes should not be used against you. To increase your chances of being cleared of charges, it's advisable to have a defense lawyer who can support your innocence and fight for your rights. Criminal defense attorneys at Theos Law don't just listen - we act swiftly and always with your best interests at heart.
The legal system for juveniles in South Carolina is different than it is for adults. It comes with its own complications and hurdles to overcome. If you think or know that your child has been accused of a crime, it's imperative to get legal counsel swiftly. Failure to do so could ruin their life or result in a longer-than-needed jail sentence.
Keep reading to learn more about just a few of the most common criminal defense cases we accept at Theos Law Firm.
In terms of common criminal offenses in South Carolina, DUIs top the list, especially regarding mindful drivers with clean driving records and no criminal history. Unfortunately for these drivers, a DUI conviction in South Carolina stays on your record and cannot be expunged. Even first-time offenses with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent can be costly. Your insurance premiums go up for years, you may end up paying almost $1,000 in fines and fees, and there's a good chance you'll have to perform community service or serve jail time.
If your breathalyzer test result is more than .15%, you refuse the breathalyzer, or it is recorded as a refusal, your license will be automatically suspended, which complicates matters further. Throw in the possibility of interlock device rental, and your life may never be the same. For those reasons alone, it is crucial to approach such charges with the help of a DUI defense lawyer. At Theos Law Firm, our attorneys have years of experience in successfully fighting these types of charges.
Fortunately, if you or a loved one has been charged with DUI, there is hope. That's especially true if the accused has undergone a breath or blood test for DUI. In fact, cases that involve such tests are successfully beaten every day. At Theos Law Firm, we will thoroughly investigate your DUI case in Folly Beach and explore every possible angle to have it dismissed.
To begin that process, your criminal defense lawyer in Folly Beach, SC, may seek answers to many questions, including:
If you are dealing with drug-related crimes in Folly Beach or another city in South Carolina, it is crucial for you to understand the potential penalties involved. Possession of a controlled substance may fall under the category of a misdemeanor, but many drug offenses are considered felonies. Even a minor drug offense conviction can result in long-lasting negative consequences. As such, it's always advisable to explore your options and seek the assistance of a Folly Beach drug crime attorney. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can help safeguard your rights and may help achieve a favorable outcome.
One of the most frequent questions we hear at Theos Law is, "What does possession mean?â
Drug charges based on possession in South Carolina are divided into three categories:
However, the state also has other drug charges that are not based on the weight of the drugs. These include:
Possession-based drug charges in South Carolina are deemed "graduated offenses" with penalties that grow more severe based on the weight of the drugs. It's important to note that the charges can be based on either actual or constructive possession. Contact a criminal defense lawyer in Folly Beach, SC, today to learn more about the complexities involved with drug cases in Folly Beach and other cities in South Carolina.
Some of the most common drug charges we see at Theos Law include the following:
The simple answer to this question is a resounding "Yes.â Drug paraphernalia can refer to various items such as pipes, bongs, syringes, scales, grinders, and rolling papers which are linked to drug usage, preparation, storage, or hiding. Even though some of these items may have legitimate uses, like tobacco pipes or medical syringes, they can still be scrutinized by law enforcement if there is proof of illegal drug use or intent.
If you are facing assault and battery charges, it is possible that you haven't actually physically harmed someone. Many people associate assault and battery with brutal beatings, but that is just one example. There are other situations that are less severe than what people typically imagine.
It's a common misunderstanding that physical injury is required for assault and battery charges. The fines, penalties, and jail time you may face depend on the severity of your charges and the number of offenses. Regardless of the degree of your charges, Assault and Battery is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly. The consequences of a conviction can be life-changing, and as such, your criminal defense lawyer in Folly Beach, SC, should work relentlessly to fight the charges being levied against you.
Though this list isn't comprehensive, here are some of the biggest factors that dictate the severity of your assault and battery charges:
Causing harm to someone or threatening to do so with the ability to carry out the threat can result in a charge of third-degree assault and battery. This misdemeanor offense is typically heard in municipal or magistrate courts and may carry a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail.
Causing harm or making threats to harm someone that results in moderate bodily injury can lead to charges of second-degree assault and battery. Additionally, touching someone's private parts without their consent can also result in charges of assault and battery in the second degree. This misdemeanor offense is heard in General Session court and can carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Assault and Battery in the first degree can involve a number of actions such as inflicting an unlawful injury when kidnapping, touching a person's privates "with lewd and lascivious intent,â and much more. Contact Theos Law Firm for more info on the degrees of Assault and Battery in South Carolina.
At Theos Law firm, we work tirelessly to ensure that our client's rights are not overlooked. Because unfortunately, the rights of everyday citizens are often trampled by law enforcement oversights and legal system failures.
That's why every criminal defense lawyer at our firm works hard to provide guidance and support throughout the legal process by keeping you informed of updates and as comfortable as possible during this trying time. Benefits of hiring Theos Law Firm include:
Unlike some criminal defense law firms in South Carolina, our team believes that everyone deserves a great lawyer when their freedoms are on the line. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime in South Carolina, trust Theos Law to have your back without judgment.
What’s happening with Folly Beach sales and some of the other Charleston Beach real estate markets? Let’s dive into it.Starting with Folly Beach, there’s currently a significant amount of inventory available. Homeowners on Folly Beach made an interesting decision in January of this year when they voted to implement a cap on short-term rentals. Short-term rentals are defined as any properties rented for less than 30 days. To engage in short-term rentals, homeowners must apply for a business license for their property....
What’s happening with Folly Beach sales and some of the other Charleston Beach real estate markets? Let’s dive into it.
Starting with Folly Beach, there’s currently a significant amount of inventory available. Homeowners on Folly Beach made an interesting decision in January of this year when they voted to implement a cap on short-term rentals. Short-term rentals are defined as any properties rented for less than 30 days. To engage in short-term rentals, homeowners must apply for a business license for their property. However, those applying for these licenses, who are also homeowners on Folly Beach, are now placed on a waitlist until the total number of short-term rentals falls below a certain threshold.
This policy change has had a noticeable impact on home sales. Many individuals purchase properties on Folly Beach with the intention of using them for personal use and renting them out as short-term rentals. Consequently, the number of closed sales on Folly Beach this year has seen a significant decline, down by 70 percent compared to the previous year.
Now, let’s turn our attention to other Charleston Beach areas, such as the Isle of Palms. Home sales on IOP have also decreased, with a decline of approximately 33 percent. Kiawah Island is experiencing a similar trend, with a 25 percent drop in home sales. The average decrease in closings throughout Charleston County stands at 22 percent for this year. Isle of Palms and Kiawah Island are aligned with these figures. However, there is a notable exception: Sullivan’s Island, which has historically limited short-term rentals, is bucking the trend. Sullivan’s Island has actually seen a 20 percent increase in closed sales between last year and this year.
The question arises: Does limiting short-term rentals genuinely affect property values? It appears that in the short term, it does have a substantial impact. Take Sullivan’s Island as an example, where property values have increased along with the number of closings, despite the restrictions on short-term rentals.
As for the future of Folly Beach, it remains uncertain at this point. Real estate is unpredictable over the long term, and none of us possess a crystal ball. Nevertheless, it’s intriguing to observe the varying trends in different beach areas.
If you have any inquiries regarding beach properties in Charleston or any other aspects of our beautiful city, please don’t hesitate to call or email me and my real estate team. We’re here to assist you.
Mikki Ramey is the broker in charge for Healthy Realty and has served the Charleston area for over 10 years. She has been recognized for her excellence in real estate as an East Cooper Top Producer and a Realtor of Distinction. Mikki is also certified as a Short Sale and Foreclosure specialist. She is a licensed real estate broker in South Carolina and is a member of the National Association of Realtors. As a realtor, she gives real estate lectures to students, residents, dentists, and doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina.
A husband and wife’s mission to help mitigate physical pain and suffering in Mount Pleasant was on grand display during Harbor Wellness’ Oct. 3 ribbon-cutting event at the venue’s 1131 Queensborough Blvd. location.
Business owners Dr. Brandon Carroll and Dr. Kaitlyn Carroll treated Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce representatives and Town Council members to a walkthrough of their chiropractic facility prior to the official ribbon-cutting for the five-year business.
The rebranding, according to Kaitlyn, consists of a new look, new name and new website, although the range of services at the Queensborough Shopping Center staple (formerly known as Corrective Chiropractic) hasn’t changed.
In their quest of identifying solutions for their achy clientele, the Harbor Wellness staff will initially determine if surgical intervention is necessary for incoming patients.
“There’s definitely scenarios where surgery is 100 percent the option that’s needed,” said Kaitlyn, “but every day we work on pain management without drugs and without surgery.”
While Brandon will typically examine many local golfers who come in with back pain, Kaitlyn services a slew of pregnant women who struggle with several physical changes her patients experience during their nine-month stretch of carrying a baby.
But an overwhelming majority of individuals who visit Harbor Wellness deal with the sometimes excruciating pain associated with sitting at a desk for long periods of time.
Kaitlyn described it as the wear and tear that’s being inflicted on one’s spine after years and decades of remaining mostly stationary in a seated position.
Desk jockeys, she continued, will usually manifest some sort of forward head posture that causes one’s shoulders and back to slouch.
“We have what’s called spinal decompression that is FDA approved,” Kaitlyn explained. “It’s a wonderful, gold-standard treatment option that’s a non-surgical intervention. It’s huge for people who have disc herniations or disc bulges, chronic radiating pain, especially in the neck and lower back.”
The East Lansing, Michigan native further noted that once a patient has concluded their series of adjustments, some level of maintenance is recommended in the form of strengthening, stretching and even implementing changes to one’s office environment by raising the height of a computer or buying a better chair.
Harbor Wellness also treats children and teens, many of whom come in with neck symptoms due to their tendency of looking down into their cellphones.
Kaitlyn’s own condition as a youngster inspired her to become a chiropractor, as she recalled suffering from scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine), which not only produces lots of pain and discomfort, but can also heighten the risk of injury.
After her own trials and being around doctors who worked with patients in varying levels of distress, Kaitlyn made it her life’s calling to help folks conquer their suffering.
“I just wanted to live in that world ... pain management and prevention and see what we can do to make your quality of life better. We’ve only been here for five years, but we love it. Charleston is home — we’re not going anywhere.”
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People like to call Folly Beach the “fun” beach, and maybe it is, especially if you’re visiting for the restaurants and bars.But there’s also a measure of serenity here if you know where, and when, to look.Here’s the best way to find it: Get here early; 7 a.m. should work — before the traffic on the only road in and out becomes a nightmare.Bring the dog if you have one: From May through September, they’re allowed on the beach before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.Check the tides ...
People like to call Folly Beach the “fun” beach, and maybe it is, especially if you’re visiting for the restaurants and bars.
But there’s also a measure of serenity here if you know where, and when, to look.
Here’s the best way to find it: Get here early; 7 a.m. should work — before the traffic on the only road in and out becomes a nightmare.
Bring the dog if you have one: From May through September, they’re allowed on the beach before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
Check the tides online before you arrive: at high tide, part of this walk is underwater.
Park in the grass just outside Folly Beach County Park. Make sure your tires aren’t on the pavement or you’ll have a ticket when you get back.
Take a right when your feet hit the sand.
Keep going, past the pelicans flying so low they could dip their toes in the water, past the last jetty trying to keep the sand from washing away.
Before you’ve walked a mile, you’ll reach a bend in the beach. This is the spot.
To the left, waves lap at the coast. To the right, still water.
It feels like you’ve reached the end of the ocean. Or the beginning.
Sit in the sand. Before you head back to civilization, let the scene wash through your eyes and into your body.
Head to the other end of the island if your companion is a surfboard instead of a dog. A spot off East Ashley Avenue known as The Washout is a favorite for surfers. A bit farther along the street, a paved trail covered in graffiti leads to a small beach with views of the Morris Island Lighthouse.
If you’re brave enough, join the kite surfers being pulled along the water on windy days, sometimes soaring high above the surface before splashing back down.
Folly Beach pier
The pier reopened in December 2022 after a two-year, $14 million rebuild. It’s 1,049 feet long. The pier has been a part of Folly Beach — you can’t miss it if you head toward the sand — since the 1930s. Pay $5 for an all-day fishing pass or just walk to the end and listen to the water.
The pier is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Eat and drink like a local
Lost Dog Cafe
For brunch, the go-to meal for late sleepers or early drinkers, try Lost Dog Cafe. Located in a former laundromat on West Huron Avenue, you can find breakfast and bloodies on the menu all day. Try a breakfast burrito, or grab some fried green tomatoes and a chicken salad croissant from the lunch menu. And like many other eateries in Folly, your dog is welcome to join you.
Jack of Cups
A favorite of The Post and Courier’s food editor, Jack of Cups on Center Street has a menu built for the adventurous eater. Boasting a bevy of vegetarian options on a menu the owners describe as “globally inspired,” the kitchen also cranks out dishes you probably never come across at home: Among them: Cap’n Crunch deviled eggs, dill pickle soup and unicorn pop rock cheesecake.
The Bounty Bar
Created by the owners of The Royal American in Charleston, The Bounty Bar on Center Street aspires to serve “better than it has to be” bar food. It’s open until 1 a.m. daily and has you covered whether you’re craving seafood, chicken or steak.
Head to Chico Feo on East Ashley Avenue for tacos, beer and live music. Check their calendar for musical performances. Or show up on a Monday for soapbox night, when you can sign up to take the stage and show off your talent, whether it’s singing, spoken word or parlor tricks.
If you need groceries or a quick snack, try Bert’s Market on East Ashley Avenue.
A smattering of surf and beach shops in the heart of town will have everything you need for a day on the beach, including the towel or sunscreen you accidentally left at home.
While you’re indoors — easily the worst place to be at Folly Beach — you can also pick up some souvenirs for the family members who couldn’t join you.
If you plan to spend most of your time on the beach, there are some rules you should remember:
No alcohol, glass containers, plastic bags, balloons, Styrofoam, open fires, fireworks or littering.
Surfing without a leash is prohibited. From May 15 to Sept. 15, surfing is prohibited from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from 2nd Street East to 3rd Street West. From Sept. 16 to May 14, surfing is allowed in any area. It is prohibited within 200 feet of the fishing pier.
Stay off the dunes and use public walkovers.
To protect sea turtle hatchlings, no lights are allowed that illuminate the front beach between 10 p.m. and dawn from May 1-Oct. 31. For a full list of beach rules, check visitfolly.com.
Reach John Ramsey at 843-906-9351. Follow him on Twitter @johnwramsey.
Food editor Parker Milner contributed to this report.
FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) — The debate on short-term rentals is once again heating up on Folly Beach. Residents say proposed amendments approved earlier this year could add dozens more rentals to the area.Folly Beach residents voted to cap short-term rentals to 800 in February. It was nearly a year-and-a-half-long debate th...
FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) — The debate on short-term rentals is once again heating up on Folly Beach. Residents say proposed amendments approved earlier this year could add dozens more rentals to the area.
Folly Beach residents voted to cap short-term rentals to 800 in February. It was nearly a year-and-a-half-long debate that seemingly came to a close.
But now, residents are worried new amendments to the ordinance proposed by city councilmembers could increase the number of short-term rentals beyond the cap approved earlier this year.
The first amendment would allow short-term rental owners who were not renewed by the deadline this year, but paid taxes on the property previously, to have a chance to apply for license renewal.
The second amendment says if an investor got a short-term rental license approved for a construction project before the ordinance was passed on February 7th and hasn't received their certificate of occupancy, they could get approval for a license after the deadline as well.
Right now, there are dozens of rentals on the waitlist. Folly Beach residents say this would only create more of a backlog and could open the door for many more short-term rentals on the island.
“It just means if you pay your taxes, you could then get a license. It could be hundreds more, and basically take us to the same position we were before the cap, where there was no limit on short-term rentals," said Ann Peets, president of the Folly Beach Residents Association. "It takes it back to them being really a dominant force on the island over the residents."
Councilmembers DJ Rich, Billy Grooms and Adam Barker proposed these amendments. News 4 reached out to each one of them for comment but did not receive a response.
Peets and other residents plan to propose some alternatives at the city council meeting on Tuesday, which they believe could help clear the backlog.
Peets says since there are already tons of homes on the waitlist, promoting alternatives like 72-day rentals or long-term rentals on the island could cut down on the number of investors aiming to get STR licenses.
But more importantly, she says the city could avoid these headaches by just having more transparency of its enforcement. Peets claims it would shorten the waitlist and also improve compliance throughout the island.
“We want to see them move to the next phase where that enforcement really is starting to happen, where they are going in and basically issuing violations when they happen, not just nice warnings that don't result in anything and that really rewards the people that do a nice job in terms of property management," Peets said. "They can have a great investment rental that is a good community player and really moves it, moves them up in the list and makes them thought of most positively on the island."
Folly Beach mayor Tim Goodwin says to stay in good standing and adhere to the enforcement of the ordinance, owners must keep business and rental licenses up to date, know who they rent to, and avoid violating the city’s strike system.
The amendments will have their first reading at the Folly Beach city council meeting Tuesday night at 7 o'clock.
The debate over short-term rentals is taking shape across the country. Locally, Sullivan’s island and James Island have both discussed short-term rental bans at recent council meetings.
Nationally, Dallas became the first city to ban short-term rentals last week.
FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCBD) – Warm weather and plenty of sunshine was a welcoming sign to the crowds of people enjoying the Labor Day on Folly Beach. But the heavy foot traffic and recent high tides come only days after Folly Beach saw significant dune erosion after Tropical Storm Idalia.A coastal consultant with the city of Folly Beach told News 2 that the dune erosion they faced from Idalia was worse than Hurricane Matthew back in 2016 and could have lasting impacts through the winter.On Monday beach officials set up cones...
FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCBD) – Warm weather and plenty of sunshine was a welcoming sign to the crowds of people enjoying the Labor Day on Folly Beach. But the heavy foot traffic and recent high tides come only days after Folly Beach saw significant dune erosion after Tropical Storm Idalia.
A coastal consultant with the city of Folly Beach told News 2 that the dune erosion they faced from Idalia was worse than Hurricane Matthew back in 2016 and could have lasting impacts through the winter.
On Monday beach officials set up cones to create a path for rescue vehicles and to prevent people from setting up too close to the dunes.
The assistant manager at Folly Beach County Park, Sam Colgate, said in the past three days, even with minimal space, they’ve seen thousands of people at the county park alone.
“From Friday to today we’ve had about 5,000 people here at Folly Beach County Park, it’s been pretty busy, especially for after a storm,” she said. “This week especially we’ve seen a lot of people setting up camp right against the dunes, I’d say for the most part people are very respectful,” said Colgate.
Dune protection continues to be a priority for Folly Beach after Tropical Storm Idalia removed about 15 feet of dunes in some locations that separate the beach from homes and the island itself. And according to coastal consultant Nicole Elko, it’s leaving the city in a vulnerable spot for the rest of the hurricane season.
“We basically have no protection if another storm were to come by this season,” said Elko.
Folly Beach has plans to renourish its dunes but that will happen after hurricane season.
“Folly Beach hasn’t been renourished since 2018, so this winter the contract will be awarded for the next renourishment, so that is certainly coming just in time, not to get us through this hurricane season but to get us through the next one,” said Elko.
Beach officials want to remind folks to stay off the dunes, especially after the recent erosion
“We definitely want folks to be respectful and not go up in the dunes, they are a natural barrier, kind of help us for lots of reasons out here,” said Colgate.
Folly Beach’s name may never seem more fitting than when one learns about a fresh legal battle playing out there — a battle that ultimately will decide if taxpayer-funded beach renourishment opens the door for public land to be converted back into private property whose owners may then build new homes on lots previously under water. The city and its allies should ensure this doesn’t happen.Unfortunately, that will be a challenge because of Folly’s dynamic nature and unique history. More than a half century ago,...
Folly Beach’s name may never seem more fitting than when one learns about a fresh legal battle playing out there — a battle that ultimately will decide if taxpayer-funded beach renourishment opens the door for public land to be converted back into private property whose owners may then build new homes on lots previously under water. The city and its allies should ensure this doesn’t happen.
Unfortunately, that will be a challenge because of Folly’s dynamic nature and unique history. More than a half century ago, Folly Beach had a road, Benke Drive, that ran between East Ashley and the ocean’s edge on the island’s easternmost end; this part of the beach was growing, and lots on both sides of Benke were platted and sold off. By the early 1980s, however, the sands shifted, and Benke was lost to erosion, and its lots were under water. A few years later, however, a sandbar migrated across Lighthouse Inlet and attached itself to the northern end of Folly, and some lots along Benke were high ground again. And the state baseline was drawn through the yet-undeveloped Benke Drive lots, allowing development on 28 of them.
Fourteen of these lots were built upon, and it’s no surprise that these homes — built between East Ashley and the beach — are among Folly’s most threatened, and the most likely to end up costing taxpayers once they fall into the ocean. The fate of the 14 remaining, undeveloped “super-beachfront” lots is now the subject of a fresh legal battle, as some owners have sought to capitalize on their freshly elevated status following the island’s 2018 beach renourishment.
To block them, the city of Folly Beach, the Coastal Conservation League, the nonprofit Save Folly Beach and several local homeowners filed a 2019 lawsuit challenging the ownership of this taxpayer-created land. Although a local judge ruled they did not have standing to bring such a challenge, the South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed that decision and ordered the case to proceed at the trial court level. That’s an auspicious step but likely only one of many to come before this matter is settled for good.
At the very least, we hope our courts continue to recognize that these groups should have standing to question this critical environmental decision. And it is critical, with implications far beyond the 14 lots on Folly Beach. As Amy Armstrong, executive director of the S.C. Environmental Law Project that represented the plaintiffs, explains: “As we have sea level rise and we have lands being converted to public trust land as they’re eroding away and going below the water, can you convert public land, with public money, into private property? It’s kind of crazy when you think about it in those terms.”
While this issue emerged first on Folly, the precedent set here will reverberate elsewhere as more coastal communities renourish their beaches more often due to sea level rise and stronger, more frequent storms. Our state’s Public Trust Doctrine says the state owns all land below the mean high water mark and holds this land in trust. A previous Supreme Court ruling has noted beachfront property owners take their title “at risk of loss to the State by natural forces,” but the courts haven’t settled what should happen when unnatural, sudden forces (like renourishment) shift our shoreline.
Locals realize Folly Beach actually received its current name (it originally was “Coffin Island”) from an old English word meaning “dense foliage,” not because of any association with a lack of good sense, prudence or foresight. But if we allow new homes to be built on its rapidly shifting sands right next to the water’s edge, the latter definition would fit all too well.
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