Rising DUI Arrests in South Dakota Highlight the Urgency for Stricter Laws and Penalties

SOUTH DAKOTA – Drunk driving continues to be a growing concern in South Dakota, as data from 2021 reveals a significant increase in DUI arrests. According to the information collected, 5,654 individuals were arrested for driving under the influence in the state, marking a 12.7 percent rise compared to the previous year. Alarmingly, the data also shows that 24 percent of these intoxicated drivers were repeat offenders, highlighting the persistent threat to public safety.

In light of these statistics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a comprehensive study on DUI offenders involved in fatal crashes. The study found that one out of every eight drunk drivers involved in such accidents had been previously arrested for drunk driving within the past three years, underscoring the need for stricter measures to combat this issue.

As a response to the concerning data, Representative Mary Fitzgerald plans to introduce a bill in the South Dakota Legislature. The bill aims to eliminate “presumptive probation” for individuals convicted of a third offense felony DUI. Presently, offenders receive a presumption of probation for this crime, which Representative Fitzgerald believes puts the safety of families at risk when using the state’s roads and highways.

Furthermore, the bill also addresses an inconsistency in the state’s DUI laws. Currently, a fourth DUI offense carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence. However, a conflicting statute (SDCL 22-6-11) allows for “presumptive probation” for the same offense. Representative Fitzgerald’s intention is to rectify this inconsistency by adding the fourth offense DUI to the list of crimes that are not eligible for presumptive probation, aligning with the original intent of the law.

The primary focus of the South Dakota government is to safeguard its citizens, and this includes preventing avoidable tragedies on the roads and highways. Protecting the public from repeat drunk driving offenses is a core responsibility of the government.

In conclusion, the increase in DUI arrests and the prevalence of repeat offenders in South Dakota reflect a pressing public safety issue. Representative Fitzgerald’s proposed bill seeks to address this concern by eliminating “presumptive probation” for third-time felony DUI offenders and correcting inconsistencies in the state’s DUI laws. It remains to be seen how the legislature will respond to these efforts aimed at combating drunk driving and enhancing public safety.