Forty-six-year-old Michael Sedlmeier is facing a laundry list of charges from this weekend's deadly crash in Mitchell that killed nine-year-old Iszabella Morgan, including his third DUI. And that could have an impact on the case.
South Dakota law dictates a driver's first two DUIs are misdemeanor offenses, which could result in up to a year in jail. But a third conviction could add more prison time to Sedlmeier's sentence.
"Under South Dakota law, if you have three convictions within a ten-year period, you are facing a class-six felony that is punishable by up to two years in the South Dakota Penitentiary," Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan said.
McGowan isn't involved in the case or investigation against Sedlmeier. But he says the circumstances of this weekend's crash will give prosecutors a lot to think about.
"A lot of times, when those more aggravating circumstances exist, we get more aggressive on how we charge these cases and the sentences we seek on them," McGowan said.
Sedlmeier pleded guilty to his first DUI in May 2004 and his second in June 2005. That second conviction included 15 days in jail, as well as the prosecution dropping several charges, including reckless driving and eluding police. Those are just two of the charges Sedlmeier currently faces.
"Certainly, if other charges were dismissed in the past on any case, that's something the judge will consider at the sentencing phase of that particular case," McGowan said. "But any subsequent case as well, the judge is going to consider all of those pieces of information."
And while McGowan says it's never easy to prosecute cases like this, he believes the law is living up to its intended purpose of punishing those who continue to drink and drive.
"I think the legislature's done a good job of responding to the problems we've had with serial drunk drivers," McGowan said. "We have the enhanced penalty for every phase of DWIs from the second up to the fifth offense."
South Dakota Highway Patrol is still investigating the crash. Sedlmeier's preliminary hearing in Davison County is scheduled for April 5.