Prosecutors want changes to presumptive probation
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Prosecutors want changes to presumptive probation

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South Dakota Legislature

PIERRE | At a meeting Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from state’s attorneys about the challenges they face.

Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald called for lifting presumptive probation in some instances.

Currently, the law requires judges to give probation when dealing with certain lower level felonies. A bill to repeal the practice failed in last year’s legislative session. This year Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is backing a couple bills that will disqualify some people from presumptive probation.

Fitzgerald said the law governing presumptive probation should be changed to disqualify people who steal firearms. Stolen weapons are likely to end up in the hands of criminals, Fitzgerald said.

The Lawrence County prosecutor also said that someone who commits the burglary of a business should not qualify for presumptive probation.

“These business people are paying the taxes that run the system,” Fitzgerald said.

Those crime victims are often left without restitution, according to Brown County State’s Attorney Chris White.

White phoned in to the committee meeting, explaining to senators that he uses air quotes whenever he talks to crime victims about restitution.

“They can actually get off probation without having paid a cent of restitution,” White said.

Fitzgerald explained that someone on five years of probation gets one day removed from that sentence for every day they don’t get in trouble. That probation can end without any restitution being paid. At that point, the efforts to collect restitution are turned over to the state’s collection agency.

“That doesn’t work very effectively,” Fitzgerald said.

State Court Administrator Greg Sattizahn told the committee that the law was changed to allow probationers to complete their term without making restitution because leaving them on probation until they paid up was turning probation officers into collection agents.

Sattizahn said that after probation is completed, “it’s very difficult to collect” restitution.

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