PIERRE | The state attorney general said Tuesday requiring longer prison times for distributing meth in South Dakota could lead to fewer men and women in state prisons.
Marty Jackley said that’s one reason he intends to ask the Legislature for tougher sentences for meth distribution. He predicted word would spread within the illegal drug culture that distributing meth in South Dakota would mean longer stays behind bars for those convicted.
South Dakota’s state prisons are running at record high levels of inmates, and Jackley said majorities of men and women in the prisons have committed crimes involving meth.
He planned to give statistics to reporters at news conferences today in Sioux Falls and Rapid City showing numbers from 2002 through October 2016 of meth labs found, meth arrests made and pounds of meth seized in South Dakota.
Jackley described his plan as “the next logical step” after the Legislature took a tougher approach he suggested regarding meth manufacturers that began in 2013.
He said the message would be similar to highway billboards from the era of Gov. Bill Janklow warning drug offenders would do time if caught in South Dakota. Janklow, a former attorney general, was governor from 1979 through 1986 and from 1995 through 2002.
Jackley is serving his final year as attorney general. He is one of four men and women seeking the Republican nomination for governor in the June primary election.
In an interview Tuesday evening, Jackley said he was being careful to stay in his lane as attorney general. “Don’t distribute meth into our South Dakota communities, or face serious consequences,” he said.
The 2018 session of the Legislature opens Jan. 9 and runs through March.
Jackley said he met Tuesday afternoon with Gov. Dennis Daugaard to review Jackley’s legislative package. Daugaard, a Republican, is serving his final year as governor.
South Dakota tax revenues have been lower than the Legislature budgeted for the current fiscal year that started July 1.
Daugaard last month recommended zero raises for state government employees, public schools and providers of state Medicaid services during the coming budget year. He also asked legislators to significantly reduce the current budget.
One reason for the smaller tax collections is believed to be goods and services that South Dakotans buy remotely such as over the internet and from mail-order sources. Those transactions traditionally weren’t subject to state and local sales taxes if the seller didn’t have a physical presence in South Dakota.
The Legislature adopted a law in 2016 calling for many out-of-state businesses without a South Dakota physical presence to collect state and local taxes on purchases made by South Dakotans.
The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled last year the law violated a federal protection originally provided by the U.S. Supreme Court and upheld during a second case.
Daugaard and Jackley challenged the South Dakota Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hope that changed circumstances would produce a different result. Jackley plans to argue the case to the federal justices if they decide to hear it this year.
Jackley said Tuesday he would outline details of his legislative package at the news conferences today and through a news release.
His proposals include:
• Increasing the penalty for distribution and manufacturing methamphetamine to a Class 3 felony punishable by 15 years and $30,000. The crime currently is a Class 4 felony with maximums of 10 years and $20,000.
• Meth distributors and manufacturers would face Class 2 felonies if caught with cash, firearms or drug-trafficking items. The maximum penalties would be 25 years and $50,000. They currently are Class 3 felonies.
• Distributing meth to a minor would be a Class 1 felony with 50 years and $50,000 as maximums. It currently is a Class 2 felony.
• A state prison sentence would be mandatory for distributing or manufacturing meth unless at least one of five conditions was met, similar to the federal sentence requirements.
• Increasing the sentence by two felony classes for a distributor or maker of a controlled substance if the transaction was illegal and the person receiving it dies.
• Requiring the reporting to consumers within 45 days of discovering data breaches of personal information regarding them and to the attorney general if more than 250 South Dakota residents are affected.
• Making an attempt to engage in human trafficking of minors subject to the same Class 2 felony penalties as now apply to actual trafficking of minors.
• Better defining sex-offender registry requirements and making repeat offenders subject to Class 5 penalties up five years and $10,000.