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Man Involved In Deadly Chase Has 7 DUI's

December 18, 2009, 9:25 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Man Involved In Deadly Chase Has 7 DUI's
Around 2:30 a.m. Friday, a highway patrol trooper tried to pull over the driver of a Ford Explorer on suspicion of driving drunk. Thirty-year-old Jason Larsen-Smith fled from the trooper in a pursuit that reached speeds of 75 miles per hour. The chase ended when Larsen-Smith 't-boned' a pick-up truck, killing 62-year-old Curtis Neuharth.

Larsen-Smith was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter and his eighth drunk driving offense. 

Jason Larsen-Smith has pleaded guilty to seven DUI's in the last 12 years. He last pleaded guilty to driving drunk two years ago and was sentenced to five years in prison, but he got out early on parole. He could have been sentenced to ten years in prison.

"When they are locked in the penitentiary they are not driving drunk, they are not killing people," South Dakota State Senator Gene Abdallah of Sioux Falls said.

Senator Abdallah is also the former head of the Highway Patrol. Over the last several years he's lead the charge to make sentences more strict for repeat drunk drivers. 

"The laws are there, the procedures are there, law enforcement is doing their job, we've got to put those people away," Abdallah said.

Abdallah was the main sponsor of a bill in 2005 that increased the maximum penalty for repeat drunk drivers to ten years in prison. When Larsen-Smith was sentenced for his seventh DUI he only got five years in the state pen. 

"How many chances do you get? Six times, there's got to be a time when you draw the line in the sand and say look you're not going to abide by the conditions of the parole, you're not going to abide by the driving laws of South Dakota, we have to put you away because you're going to kill somebody. In this case an innocent person lost their life," Abdallah said.

Larsen-Smith was also driving with a revoked license when he hit Neuharth's vehicle. He has pleaded guilty to driving without a proper license five other times.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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