The family of Maegan Spindler, who was killed in a Drunken Driving accident in 2013 had been strong backers of Senate Bill 44, a bill offered by the Attorney General to reclassify Vehicular Homicide as “a crime of violence.”
The Spindlers are providing notice this morning that they’re not happy at all that the measure has been killed in conference committee, and offer the following statement on the bill’s demise, which directly states that they’re done with this process, and plan on taking it straight to the people:
We received an email from Charles McGuigan, Chief Deputy Attorney General that SB 44, the Attorney General’s bill to reclassify Vehicular Homicide as “a crime of violence” has been killed in a legislative Conference Committee.
Our family’s statement is as follows:
We are the parents of Maegan Spindler, an innocent victim DUI killer Ronald Ray Fischer, Jr. Many people know of the circumstances of Maegan’s and Dr. Robert Klumb’s deaths on July 8, 2013 in Pickstown at the hands of Fischer. He drove drunk, steering into a parking lot at highway speed. We still wonder if Fischer saw his victims, as an eyewitness driving behind him did. Maegan actually survived a short while after being thrown 120’. There were no viewable remains; no last look at our beautiful daughter. Rob was killed “instantly”. It was a horrifically violent crime.
Fischer was a first-time arrestee for DUI with BAC of 0.232 and tested positive for marijuana. A chronic alcoholic at age 28, he failed inpatient rehab twice. He was acquitted of 2 counts of First Degree Manslaughter by a sympathetic Judge in a bench trial. Instead, Fischer was convicted of 2 counts of Vehicular Homicide. He was sentenced to 2 consecutive 15 year sentences. Because Vehicular Homicide is not “a crime of violence” under South Dakota law, Fischer will likely serve only 30% of his sentence because of “presumed parole”. He will serve 4 and a half years for killing our daughter. He will be out of prison in a bit over 6 years for the two deaths.
We are mystified about the reasons why SB 44 failed. The Attorney General and the State’s Attorneys Association negotiated with the Governor’s office for 4 long months to craft a compromise version of SB 44 which included a new Aggravated Vehicular Homicide crime for these most egregious cases. It was passed by the Senate on February 22 by a 28-6 margin.
The House Judiciary Committee, however, did not like the amended SB 44 and reverted to the original proposal to reclassify Vehicular Homicide as “a crime of violence”. Because the Senate and House bills differed it was referred to the Conference Committees.
It is worth noting that in House Judiciary testimony, the Governor’s General Counsel Jim Seward, stated that the governor does not believe that Vehicular Homicide is “a crime of violence”. He said the governor believes if that such crimes fail to have criminal intent (the legal concept of Mens Rea).
Our family believes that as soon as a drunk gets in a car with the intent to drive, criminal intent clearly is formed. Everybody knows DUI is against the law, including the governor and his general counsel. How can the public ever expect any meaningful DUI reform when Governor Daugaard, the chief public safety officer of the state, apparently believes that a drunk driver that kills people simply had bad luck and had no criminal intent for driving drunk?
What about justice for the victims? The average time served for Vehicular Homicide, as reported by the Legislative Research Council is 3.36 years. The question is what sort of message does South Dakota wish to send for the most extreme DUI crimes?
The message the governor and legislature have sent by their inaction is that a life taken by a drunk driver is worth only 3.36 years of incarceration. They believe that innocent life is cheap.
The only way meaningful DUI reform can happen in South Dakota is through a ballot initiative. We intend to work with South Dakotans to pursue this goal.
What are your thoughts?