SD House bill could require repeat DUI offenders to serve prison time

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 5:38 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -On Wednesday, A bill to establish mandatory sentences for certain DUI violations passed the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee.

If House Bill 1170 makes it through the South Dakota legislature and is signed into law by the governor, anyone convicted of a fourth DUI would serve a mandatory one-year prison sentence.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32 people die each day in drunk driving accidents.. That’s up 14 percent from 2019.

Fay Swenson, a mother who lost her young son in a drunk driving crash, has her thoughts on this proposed change.

Brad Swenson was 32 when he was killed by a drunk driver. At his funeral, people from all over the country came to pay their respects.

“Brad is one that loved everybody, and he made friends so easily, I mean he was so kind he would do anything for anybody and treated everybody special,” Swenson said.

The morning of Brads death, he was on his way to pick up an ex-coworker because she said she wanted to see the sunrise. Brad didn’t know that there was alcohol in her system. When he picked her up, she got in the driver side, while Brad went around to get in on the passenger side. She ended up crashing the car, it rolled, and Brad was unable to get out of the vehicle as it went up in flames.

In 2019 more than 5,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in South Dakota.

“When we went to court the day of sentencing, we read impact statements, and these are, from all over the world,” continued Swenson.

House Bill 1170 is currently on the House floor for debate. If the bill passes, a person convicted of a fourth DUI violation must be sentenced to at least two years in a state correctional facility. While HB 1170 wouldn’t have changed the outcome of Brad’s crash, Swenson believes it’s a step in the right direction.

“The drunk driver that killed him has no remorse, and she’s just is living life like nothing happened. And until policies and laws come into place that make them take note of what they’re doing and the affects they have on people, they’re going to continue to do it. I know its a disease when they’re drinking, but its like they need help, and if they don’t help themselves, sometimes we have to have laws that help them. Their actions cause heartache for people,” said Swenson.

Swenson said drinking and driving is about more than just the person drinking. Its about the families, and the people around them. Its more than just the driver who pays the price

“I miss him, love him so much. I know that when I get to heaven I know I’m gonna run and just hug him, kiss him because I miss him, so much, every single day,” Swenson said.

House Bill 1170 is scheduled for a second reading in the state House of Representatives Tuesday.