April 25, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are a number of frequently asked questions concerning the State’s Attorney’s policies concerning traffic tickets and other issues in Union County, South Dakota.  The answers to these questions are a matter of policy and will not change regardless of whom in our office answers the questions.

I thought I, as a South Dakota Resident, could not get a red light or speeding ticket due to an Iowa camera system.

South Dakota and Iowa are both sovereign entities, which means that we can not pass a law in SD telling Iowa what they can or cannot do.  In 2014, our new laws on this subject merely dictated how SD will interact with Iowa on this subject.  SDCL 32-28-20, 32-28-21, and 32-28-22, only stop the SD Dept. of Public Safety and the SD Dept. of Motor Vehicles from cooperating with Iowa in providing information if that information is going to be used for Iowa’s enforcement of a camera offense. Due to the call volume to my office on this subject after 2014, which is when the above-mentioned laws went into effect, Iowa has found other ways to identify the owners of these vehicles.

     –   If Iowa generates a warrant for this can I be arrested in SD?

It is my understanding that this Iowa process is an administrative or civil offense and not a criminal offense.  Similarly, pursuant to SD statutes, a person cannot be arrested and detained for an out-of-state class 2 misdemeanor warrant if that is the only issue that the officer is dealing with.

    –   Should I pay the fine?

This is only a question that you can answer.  There are potential defenses to any given situation and if this is something that you want to pursue, then you should retain an attorney that is licensed to practice in Iowa.

Anyone faced with this issue should make the assumption that any Iowa officer could address a failure to cooperate with the Iowa process any time you find yourself in Iowa.

Anyone faced with this issue should make the assumption that the State of Iowa may turn this matter over to collections and that by doing so may affect your credit rating.

Advice from this office:  Please drive safely and follow the laws where ever your travels take you because we want to see you again

 

If I go to trial, will it be for the speed the officer wrote me for or for the speed the officer stopped me for?

Occasionally an officer will write a speeding ticket for a lower speed than that which the officer actually observed; this is within the officer’s discretionary authority. However, if a driver who was given a break by the officer chooses to contest the ticket, the State may, and will, amend the ticket to the actual speed.  If convicted, the driver’s record and the information reported to the driver’s insurance company will be the speed for which the driver was convicted.

The officer did not reduce the speed on the ticket and wrote the ticket for the speed that was on the radar; doesn’t the officer have to give a speeder a break?

Because an officer can write a ticket for a lower speed, does not mean the officer has to write the ticket for a lower speed.  Generally, officers write the speeding ticket for the full speed violation.

Will the ticket affect my insurance?

A ticket may very well affect your insurance, though not all insurance companies have the same policies. Therefore you will have to call your insurance company and ask how a ticket might affect your policy or premium.

My insurance company has told me that they will raise my premium if I am convicted of this ticket.

Our office does not make prosecutorial decisions based upon possible changes to your insurance policy.

Can I plead guilty to a different offense rather than the offense I was charged with?

No.  It is unethical to allow an individual to plead guilty to a criminal offense that the person did not commit.

I’m told that if I get an attorney I can get the ticket dropped entirely or changed to a non-moving violation, is that true?

No, seeking legal counsel will not have an affect on how our office proceeds on this or any other matter.  It is true that an attorney may find some legal issue in a case that might affect the outcome of the case; traffic tickets, however, are largely cut and dried with few procedural issues to be raised.

I heard that if you ask for a trial, the prosecutor will dismiss the ticket; is that true?

No.  A typical traffic violation trial takes less than fifteen minutes.  The State’s Attorney’s office is located in the courthouse and it is no problem for one of us to walk upstairs for the trial.

I found an error on the ticket the officer gave me; does that mean the ticket is no good?

No, a minor writing error (date, spelling, etc…) does not invalidate a ticket.  In fact, the legal system has a specific name for this situation, it is called a “scrivener’s error”; a scrivener’s error does not invalidate the document.  Occasionally, someone takes a ticket to trial believing that a minor writing error invalidates the ticket and that the ticket will be dismissed, resulting in an automatic win for the defendant.  This is not the true and the court will accept the State’s requested amendment to the ticket and proceed with the trial.

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