Convictions for drug possession and ingestion more than doubled in South Dakota in past decade

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Convictions for possessing and ingesting illegal drugs rose sharply in South Dakota during the past 10 years, a state official told a study panel Monday.

A committee of legislators and public officials is trying to determine how controlled substance offenses affect inmate populations in the state prisons.

Possession and ingestion are lower-class felonies in South Dakota and are punishable by prison sentences.

Convictions went up a lot for both, according to Greg Sattizahn. He is administrator for the South Dakota Unified Judicial System that oversees the state’s courts.

He presented a report showing convictions during the past 11 fiscal years that ended each June 30.

Possession convictions numbered 484 in 2009 and steadily climbed to a peak of 2,144 in 2018. They fell somewhat in 2019 to 2,104.

Ingestion convictions meanwhile more than doubled after a 2013 rewrite of state law put ingestion and possession at similar felony levels.

Ingestion convictions went from 275 in 2014, to 991 in 2018, then declined to 939 in 2019.

Sattizahn noted that one person could have been guilty of both crimes. The statistics don’t reflect federal convictions.

Convictions for manufacture and distribution of controlled substances have been “fairly steady” since 2013, Sattizahn said.

Representative Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, said illegal manufacturing in South Dakota has dropped off, as methamphetamine from outside South Dakota has fallen in price.

The committee also received a presentation from state Judge Patricia Riepel on problem-solving courts.

Haugaard said the panel will meet again Monday, September 23.

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