Davison County Commissioner Weitala convicted of DUI
A Davison County commissioner is on probation after being convicted of drunken driving. Kim Weitala, 51, of Mitchell, was arrested in November for driving under the influence on Interstate 90 near mile marker 332. She received a suspended imposition of sentence in December after pleading guilty. The suspended imposition means that if she complies with the terms of her probation, she will have the chance to remove the DUI from her record.
On Nov. 12, Weitala attended a function in Sioux Falls, she said, where she consumed alcoholic drinks.
“I made a wrong decision when I chose to drink and drive home,” she said Tuesday in an interview with The Daily Republic. “I’m sorry to my family, friends and the public and sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment. It won’t ever happen again. I’m not taking this lightly.”
Davison County Deputy Tim Reitzel followed up on a complaint that night of a swerving SUV. He witnessed the SUV cross the white line at the edge of the roadway, swerve back over and almost strike construction cones.
Weitala continued driving for two miles after Reitzel activated his emergency lights and siren, according to court documents.
Reitzel refrained from arresting Weitala due to a conflict of interest — as a deputy sheriff, he is a county employee — and asked Mitchell Police Officer Dan Kopfmann to take over the investigation. Kopfmann had already been following Reitzel.
Kopfmann wrote in his report that he smelled a strong odor of alcohol when Weitala spoke and had witnessed Weitala’s vehicle swerving. Kopfmann reported Weitala performed poorly on field sobriety tests, and a cup in her center console contained rum and fruit juice. Court documents do not list Weitala’s blood-alcohol content.
Weitala said Tuesday during her interview with The Daily Republic that she did not drink while in her vehicle. The cup she had in her vehicle was empty, she said, but she acknowledged it was a mistake to place the cup in her console.
Weitala pleaded guilty to first-offense DUI and was sentenced Dec. 12. A charge of having an open alcoholic container in a vehicle was dismissed.
Judge Gordon Swanson sentenced Weitala to 360 days of probation, during which she cannot drive with any alcohol in her system, she must continue with therapy and must obey all laws. She was ordered to pay $645 in court costs and fines.
According to state law, anyone convicted of first-offense DUI shall have driving privileges “revoked for not less than 30 days,” or a judge can, upon presentation of proof of financial responsibility, allow that person to drive for work, school, counseling or sobriety testing.
There is no mention of her driving privileges in Weitala’s sentence. Weitala’s attorney Doug Dailey, of Mitchell, said that because she received a suspended imposition, the court was not required to revoke her driving privileges.
Jeff Larson, Sanborn County state’s attorney, prosecuted the case due to a conflict of interest for the Davison County state’s attorney’s office.
Davison County Commission Chairman John Claggett said Tuesday that commissioners will not discipline Weitala, because they feel the court’s sentence is sufficient.