Senate Bill Ends Presumptive Probation

Jan 9, 2019

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg

A bill sponsored by the South Dakota Attorney General repeals the presumption of probation for non-violent drug crimes.

The presumption was a part of a criminal justice overhaul package passed by the legislature in 2013.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg campaigned on ending presumptive probation. He says

Ravnsborg says Senate Bill 19 gives discretion back to judges.

“It would also cause the defendants, we believe, to have to work with law enforcement more,” Ravnsborg says. “They have to give something to get the same thing they’re getting in the statute, now. It gives judges and prosecutors more flexibility on how they charge and what they can expect. And, I do believe it will benefit our state by getting information to get the dealers. That’s ultimately who I’m after.”

A report from the Urban Institute in 2016 finds presumptive probation and other reforms enacted several years ago increased convictions, while decreasing the state’s prison population.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson was integral in passing the criminal justice reform package. He says he doesn’t plan on testifying for or against the attorney general’s bill.

“We knew when we drafted those bills it was going to be an ongoing process because society changes and the judicial system changes,” Gilbertson says. “Those bills are not set in stone. Now, whether there are proposals on the table that would improve it or not, that’s up for the legislature to decide.”

Justice Gilbertson says he respect the legislative process and he will pass judgement if a case against the repeal makes it to the supreme court.

He says he thought the over haul several years ago was important enough to testify in favor of and support.