Report shows South Dakota most lenient state with DUI

Published: Aug. 11, 2016 at 8:44 PM MDT
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A new report shows South Dakota is the most lenient state in the country when it comes to drunk driving.

But, not everyone agrees.

Lila Doud, the president of the Pennington County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said, "It's a dangerous situation in Rapid City because there's so many drunk drivers out on our streets and highways. Doesn't matter what time of day."

You've probably heard it before - don't drink and drive.

But for Lila Doud - that saying has a deeper meaning - her daughter was struck and injured by a drunk driver years ago.

Fortunately, she survived to tell the tale - but it's what happened to the driver in court that changed everything.

Doud said, "He walked in, pled guilty, and they didn't even know he injured somebody. And so I decided I had to do something."

Doud is now the President of the Pennington County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

And she says the state needs to crack down on DUI.

Doud said, "Well, I've kind of known South Dakota was more lenient than other states - and we just need to get tougher. And we need our judges to get tougher."

South Dakota places last in WalletHub's list of the strictest states on drunk driving.

The study points to the fact South Dakota has no mandatory jail time or license suspension on a first offense.

That compares to first place - Arizona's minimum of 10 days behind bars and 90-day license suspension.

But, Pennington County officials say that's not necessary.

State's Attorney Mark Vargo said, "We have some faith in our judiciary and our criminal justice system to find the right answer without saying on a first offense, you have to do this."

In a standard first DUI offense, drivers get 30 days of suspended jail time, a $400 dollar fine, and licenses are revoked for 30 days in South Dakota.

And while convicted DUI offenders here don't have it.

Black Hills FOX reporter Robert Grant said "Almost half the states across the country now require an ignition interlock device. What that means is you can't start the car - unless you're sober."

But, the Mount Rushmore State instead has a 24/7 program.

Offenders who blow above a .17 - are required to check in with officials twice a day, in the morning and evening - if they blow positive for alcohol at 24/7 - they're taken into custody.

Vargo said, "But, if we're actually trying to change their behavior long-term to get people who have a serious alcohol problem to address it, because alcohol doesn't just lead to DUI, it leads to a lot of other problems - in some ways 24/7 is probably preferable."

Officials say since 1994 - the number of drunk driving accidents with injuries has dropped by more than half - from 1300 to just more than 500 in 2014.

Vargo said, "So what that tells us is law enforcement is getting to those drivers before they get into an accident."

And regardless of the side, most agree if you drink:

Doud said, "Stay off the road."