PIERRE, S.D. — A bill that would modify presumptive probation so that failing to cooperate with law enforcement would be considered an aggravated circumstance passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 5-2 vote Thursday, Feb. 20.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg proposed Senate Bill 6. Last year, Ravnsborg failed to repeal presumptive probation.

The Legislative Research Council estimated that the bill would cost the state $9.4 million over the course of 10 years in operational costs for the state’s prisons.

Ravnsborg said that since presumptive probation began in the state in 2013, cooperation with law enforcement has dwindled.

Ravnsborg said he's worked on both sides of the bench and discovered that drug offenders had no reason to work with law enforcement if they knew they wouldn't be going to prison anyway.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

SB 6 fosters cooperation with law enforcement and provides a penalty at the discretion of the court, Ravnsborg said.

Stacey Ackerman, president of the South Dakota Sheriff's Association, said the association supports SB 6, noting that it will help tackle the state's drug problem at its source.

"We feel SB 6 is a good fix so we can go after those bigger people that are dealing within our communities," Ackerman said.

"This poison isn’t coming from within South Dakota, it’s coming from outside our state," Ravnsborg said of methamphetamine.

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota stated in a press release that SB 6 “prevents low level offenders from staying in their communities where they can work and care for their families and contributes to South Dakota’s already overcrowded prison populations.”

Sen. Craig Kennedy, D-Yankton, urged his fellow lawmakers to vote against SB 6.

"When we're talking about cooperation with law enforcement in this context we're not talking about someone sitting down with law enforcement and saying 'this is where I got my stuff,' " Kennedy said. "What we're talking about is someone wearing a wire for the basis of charging someone else. That puts someone in incredible danger and incredible risk."

Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, said that when he was a circuit court judge he would advise the offenders to use this time to separate themselves from those who use or sell drugs, not the opposite.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor.