PIERRE, S.D.- Attorney General Marty Jackley confirms that a Legislative Conference Committee made up of Senate and House members was unable to reach a resolution on various amendments to vehicular homicide under SB 44. SB 44 was designed to strengthen the penalties for vehicular homicide cases in South Dakota and aimed to include vehicular homicide as a “crime of violence” for purposes of parole. Both the Senate version that passed 28-6 and the House version that passed 58-8 were acceptable to and supported by the Attorney General.
“As Attorney General, I see the terrible pain and suffering that families face when a loved one is lost in a vehicular homicide. Taking a life while driving impaired should carry with it a more significant and deterrent value than a 4.5 year actual sentence to better protect the public. Although disappointed, this issue is far too important and I will continue working with law enforcement, legislators, the Governor and victim families to find an acceptable way to both better protect the public and to hold those accountable for their actions that cause such hurt,” said Jackley.
The decision to bring this bill was based in part on a tragic vehicular homicide case in Charles Mix County. On July 8, 2013, Ronald Fisher, drove recklessly, impaired, and at high rates of speed through a Pickstown parking lot killing 25 year old Maegen Spindler and 46 year old Dr. Robert Klumb. Fisher was tried and convicted for two counts of vehicular homicide for his two victims. Because vehicular homicide is a Class 3 felony, the Judge was only able to provide a maximum allowable sentence of 15 years for each victim. Furthermore, because vehicular homicide is not statutorily defined as a “crime of violence,” Mr. Fisher may well only serve approximately nine total years for the deaths of his two victims. Vehicular homicide convictions over the past five years in South Dakota include: 4 in 2015, 4 in 2014, 8 in 2013, 4 in 2012 and 5 in 2011.