This story has been updated to reflect pending action on legislation in the House.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A Sioux Falls man is in the Minnehaha County Jail following his 10th DUI arrest.
Police arrested 40-year old David Rocky Mountain on Monday; officers say he sideswiped a police car and led them on a 35 miles-per-hour chase on the east side of the city. The case raises a lot of questions, including what can be done to keep repeat drunk drivers off the road.
House Bill 1170 in the South Dakota state legislature would prevent suspended sentences for someone convicted of at least four DUIs during a certain period of time. It would require mandatory sentences, meaning people couldn’t get out early on parole. The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday by a 8 to 5 margin to send the measure to the full House.
Republican Rep. Chris Karr, the prime sponsor of HB-1170, says the motivation for the bill is “to protect society” as well as incentivize people to take the issue of drunk driving seriously. Karr represents Minnehaha County.
The House began debate on the bill Thursday, but delayed further action until Tuesday. That came after Karr offered an amendment requiring even-longer sentences than he had originally proposed. Last year, the House approved a somewhat similar bill sponsored by Karr that later died in a Senate committee.
David Rocky Mountain has been sent to prison twice for his 5th and 6th DUIs. In each case, part of his sentence was suspended. Since his most recent discharge in May 2021, police have arrested him for DUI four more times. And he’s not the only repeat offender.
“Seven, eight, nine DUIs, right, that’s just not something we can stand by and let happen,” Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum said.
An offender may lose their driver’s license, but that doesn’t always stop them from getting behind the wheel. People are booked into the Minnehaha County Jail just about every day for repeated DUIs.
“The addiction when it comes to alcoholism is very real, and alcohol does tremendous damage to our society, and so we as law enforcement see this,” Thum said.
Thum says people need resources, like treatment or DUI court, “to get them out of the grips of addiction and on the right path.” But finding that path and staying on it aren’t easy.
“I think for a lot of people it looks like different things,” Thum said. “Was it trauma, was it addiction, was it something else, and I think there’s many underlying issues that we see. But until that person’s ready to make the step and say, ‘You know what, I need help, and I’m willing to accept help,’ it’s really hard.”