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Defining Drug-Free Zones

May 10, 2012, 6:12 PM by Brady Mallory

Defining Drug-Free Zones

A search for a parole violator led to a large meth bust in Sioux Falls. Richard Egan faces multiple drug charges, and could get an extra five years in prison simply because the meth lab was near Meldrum Park.

"That extra five years is going to stick," Sioux Falls Police Public Information Officer Sam Clemens said.  "You might get more time just from getting caught in the drug free zone verses what the original crime, or drug possession might be."

South Dakota law states a drug free zone is 1,000 feet from any school or playground, or 500 feet from places like youth centers, public swimming pools and video game arcades.  Clemens said with the amount of these places in Sioux Falls, drug free zones are pretty encompassing.

"One thousand feet is quite a distance away from park or school.  A lot of people might not think about that," Clemens said. "Just because it's out of eye shot doesn't mean it's out of that drug free zone."

According to Clemens, the legislation only focuses on felony drugs, such as meth.  If a person is caught just smoking marijuana in a drug free zone without the intent to sell it, he or she will not get that extra charge.

Clemens said a minor possession charge won't fall under that law. So far this year, the meth lab bust is the only drug free zone violation near Meldrum Park.  Over near Whittier Park, there have been 12. 

Police do not track if the law actually prevents drug use.

"It's hard to dig that stat out with the computer systems.  It doesn't mean it doesn't work.  The main focus is to keep that element away from kids," Clemens said.

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