The worst happens. You were charged with driving under the influence (DUI), and you and your attorney did everything possible to fight the charge, but you are still found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony. Your criminal record is now tarnished forever, right?
Not necessarily. South Dakota laws allow the court to suspend the imposition of a misdemeanor or felony sentence under the right circumstances. Read on to understand suspended impositions, especially in DUI cases.
What is a suspended imposition of sentence?
Suspended imposition of sentence (SIS) is a procedure that seals the record of an offense for an individual who has pled guilty or been convicted. A person may receive one misdemeanor SIS and one felony SIS in South Dakota for their lifetime. This applies to residents and non-residents of South Dakota. If a crime is punishable by death or life in prison, it is not eligible for SIS.
Whether to grant SIS is entirely up to the discretion of the judge, who will determine if issuing SIS satisfies the public’s best interest and the ends of justice. Factors often considered by a judge include:
- Prior criminal history
- Loss of employment or business if SIS not granted
- Loss of educational or professional degree or certification if SIS not granted
While the above are illustrative of factors considered, the judge can place weight on any relevant factors.
What happens after SIS is granted?
If the judge agrees to grant SIS for your charge, you will be placed on probation. The conditions of the probation are at the judge’s discretion. Common conditions of probation included:
- Drug testing
- Visits with a probation officer
- Mandated counseling
- Requirement to maintain regular employment
The SIS and its associated benefits are not final until probation and all probationary conditions have been met.
If you complete probation, your record is sealed from public view, but will not be erased. For example, if you receive another DUI in the future, it will still be considered your second DUI for prosecution purposes. This can affect sentencing guidelines for future DUI charges.
Additionally, SIS will not alter the revocation of your license. This administrative penalty will continue.
When you are deciding whether to pursue SIS, talk to your attorney about the sentencing implications. If you violate probation and fail to secure SIS, the penalty is the maximum possible penalty by law for your charge.
If it is often possible to reach a plea deal for a reduced sentence as an alternative to SIS. If you are concerned that you will not be able to comply with probation requirements, a plea deal could be the better path. In any event, be sure to work with an attorney who is experienced in the nuances of South Dakota DUI and SIS laws.