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Victim’s family wants stiffer DUI laws

Maegen Spindler, 25, was killed in a July 8 crash in Pickstown. She and a colleague were standing in a parking lot when they were struck by a Lake Andes man now accused of drunken driving.

The family of a woman killed in a July 8 crash in Pickstown is calling on South Dakotans to stiffen their drunken driving laws.

“We call upon Governor Dennis Daugaard and the South Dakota Legislature to take definitive action which makes the state ‘best in class’ with DUI enforcement and prevention,” said a statement issued by Gregg Spindler, father of crash victim Maegen Spindler.

Ronald Ray Fischer, 29, of Lake Andes, is charged with first-degree manslaughter and other crimes for the crash, which killed Spindler, 25, of Cazenovia, N.Y., and Dr. Robert Klumb, 46, of Pierre. Klumb was the lead research biologist in the Pierre office for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Spindler was working as a fisheries technician assistant for Klumb during the summer.

A blood sample taken after the crash indicated Fischer had a blood-alcohol content of 0.232, nearly three times the legal driving limit, when the vehicle he was driving struck and killed Klumb and Spindler, who were on foot in a hotel parking lot in Pickstown, according to court documents. The state legal limit for driving is 0.08.

Fischer’s vehicle allegedly failed to stop at the stop sign at a highway intersection and then traveled into the parking lot, where it struck Klumb and Spindler at highway speeds.

Gregg Spindler, in his Thursday release to the media, said the Spindler family wants South Dakota to:

  • Impose a 10 percent excise tax on alcohol sales to provide a dedicated fund to increase driving-under-the-influence enforcement and education, with funds to be allocated on a regional basis and shared among state, local and tribal law enforcement and based on DUI incidence.
  • Establish a system of regular, random and unannounced sobriety checkpoints.
  • Pass laws to provide liability for the sale or provision of alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated people.
  • Provide a clear and simple path for asset forfeiture as a penalty for DUI.
  • Increase penalties for DUI, provide for some jail time for even first-time offenders and prison for multiple offenders.
  • Adopt the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation for a DUI threshold of 0.05 blood-alcohol content.
  • Call and sponsor a DUI “best practices conference” in 2014 to evaluate methods from both within and outside of the United States.

The family’s call for stiffer laws comes on the heels of a major legislative effort in South Dakota to relax some penalties for alcohol and drug offenders and keep them in their communities rather than in jail or prison.

The effort, passed into law just last winter, includes expanded use of specialized drug courts and continued use of the 24/7 Sobriety program, which uses monitoring devices and daily check-ins by offenders to help assure sobriety and compliance with probation.