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South Dakota law cracks down on DUI

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The 28th Bomb Wing commander isn’t the only one cracking down on drunk driving. The state of South Dakota has recently strengthened its implied consent law to include mandatory blood-alcohol content tests for everyone suspected of driving under the influence.

South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed the new implied consent law March 10, and it will go into effect July 1.

While implied consent exists throughout the United States, the exact requirements of the law differ from state to state. South Dakota’s new law is one of the most strict in the nation.

Lieutenant Tom Vlieger, traffic division commander for the Rapid City Police Department, explained the current procedure for dealing with a DUI and how it will change under the new law.

“Currently, an officer would stop a driver for a traffic violation and proceed with a series of sobriety tests,” Lieutenant Vlieger said. “Based on the driver’s performance and the driving behaviors the officer observed, the officer would decide if the individual was indeed driving drunk.”

After this assessment, under the current law, the individual is then given an opportunity to provide a sample of blood for a BAC test. If the suspect declines, the officer then submits a refusal form and the driver loses the use of his license for a year.

This refusal form would then be used as evidence in the case of a trial.

Lieutenant Vlieger explained that this is the standard situation if it’s a person’s first or second offense. If, however, it’s a citizen’s third DUI, the current law forces the suspect to give a blood sample.

The new law is good news for those interested in gathering evidence in such cases.

“It is unreasonable to require an officer to get a warrant for a blood sample in the case of a DUI,” Lieutenant Vlieger said. “Because alcohol is metabolized by the body, the evidence would be destroyed by the time a warrant was issued.”

And, although the form for refusal to give a sample of blood has been used as evidence in past cases, it didn’t conclusively prove that a person’s BAC was over the legal limit.

Mr. Glen Brenner, an attorney with the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office, said the new law will provide empirical evidence that a person was unfit to drive.

“It will certainly assist us as prosecutors,” Mr. Brenner said. “It should also expedite the legal process because we should have a lot more DUI offenders plead guilty because (the evidence will prove to the offenders) that their BAC was way over the legal limit.”

The 28th Security Forces Squadron told the Black Hills Bandit that it’s looking into the impact this law will have on the base when it goes into effect in July.

For now Lieutenant Vlieger echoes the wishes of wing leadership in regard to the issue.

“If you’re going to drink, you should designate a sober driver or use a taxi cab,” Lieutenant Vlieger said. “(The RCPD) pretty much (has) a no tolerance policy toward DUIs and if caught, (people) will be taken to jail.”