Sep, 2017

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posted in Wilka, Welter & Ash LLP Law Blog.

South Dakota Alternatives to Sentencing Part 2

Drug Court

In South Dakota, if you are a repeat drug offender (not a dealer or sex offender), prison bound, and live in a county where drug court exists, you are eligible for participation in drug court. The drug court was formed as a “creative alternative aimed at keeping more individuals out of prison, lowering costs to the state, reducing crime and recidivism (re-offending).” In order to participate, you must plead guilty to your drug-related crime and be sentenced. That sentence is then deferred after successful application to drug court. Failure to meet program requirements will mean immediate imposition of the deferred sentence. Upon successful completion of the one-year program, your felony will remain on your permanent record; however, your sentence will be completed without having to spend time in prison.

There are ten key components to drug courts in general:

#1: Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.


#2: Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights.

#3: Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the Drug Court program.

#4: Drug Courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol and other drug related treatment and rehabilitation services.

#5: Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.

#6: A coordinated strategy governs Drug Court responses to participant’s compliance.

#7: Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential.

#8: Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.

#9: Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective Drug Court planning, implementation, and operations.

#10: Forging partnerships among Drug Courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances Drug court effectiveness.

By adhering to these principals the drug court is able to reduce drug abuse and re-offending by reaching “targeted” offenders, increase public safety by integrating court, community and treatment, reduce incarceration as a means for dealing with substance abuse, and keep offenders working, parenting and participating in the community. Each drug court participant is expected to pay for their participation. They must maintain housing and pay for rent, utilities and other expenses. They must be employed and pay court costs, fines and any other bills accumulated.*

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a felony drug crime and are concerned about potential prison, call the lawyers at Wilka and Welter for a confidential review of your case. You may be eligible for drug court and be able to continue your life with this alternative to sentencing.


In a recent observation of the Minnehaha County Drug Court, I found the courtroom packed with participants. Judge Patricia Riepel volunteers her time to preside over the proceedings. As each participant is called, they state to the court the number of days they have been in the program. The Judge is updated by a team of substance abuse counselors, deputy public defenders, prosecutors and probation officers who are also in court. The participant appears in court based on the phase they are in. Phases one and two require weekly appearances, three is bi-weekly and four is monthly. Each phase has steps that must be completed in a checklist the participant is responsible for keeping. The Judge makes the determination about whether a participant may proceed to the next stage. During the proceeding the participant is encouraged by the Judge for their accomplishments by drawing from a fishbowl of incentives. Negative attendance or participation is met with stern warnings. As each participant advances in phases, a medal and a hug is given by the Judge. I left the courtroom feeling very positive and encouraged by what I observed.