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Prison Mailbox Rule Applied to South Carolina Prisoner’s Late PCR Petition

In an August 16, 2017 ruling, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that if a petitioner presents a valid equitable tolling defense for filing a post-conviction relief (PCR) petition beyond the statute of limitations, the limitations period “shall be tolled until the application is delivered to and received by the Clerk of Court.”

Before the Supreme Court was the appeal of prisoner Renwick Mose, whose PCR application was stamped “filed” by the clerk on March 10, 2014 – three days after the one-year statute of limitations had expired. Mose presented evidence to the trial court that he gave his PCR to prison officials to notarize and mail on February 18, 2014, or 17 days before the end of the statute of limitations.

On appeal, Mose reiterated his argument that he “clearly made a good faith effort to meet the deadline.” Alternatively, he argued he was entitled to equitable tolling because he gave his PCR to prison officials for mailing well before the deadline and the delay in its delivery to the clerk “was due to no fault of his own.”

The state Supreme Court agreed. It recognized and accepted the rationale behind the “prison mailbox rule” established in Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988), and concluded “that the unique conditions of incarceration require a holding that the statute of limitations should be tolled if the circumstances warrant.”

Specifically, where “a PCR applicant relies on the defense of equitable tolling in response to a motion to dismiss, the applicant must substantiate that the correct and complete application was delivered to prison authorities prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations and that any delay in the Clerk of Court’s receipt of the application was due to processing.”

Mose was found to have made such a showing, and the dismissal of his PCR due to untimeliness was vacated. See: Mose v. South Carolina, 420 S.C. 500, 803 S.E.2d 718 (S.C. 2017). 


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Related legal case

Mose v. South Carolina