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Springs man guilty in DUI case that reached Supreme Court

WESSINGTON SPRINGS — A Wessington Springs man whose first-offense drunken driving charge went all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court has been convicted.

Brian Amick, 30, was stopped shortly before 3:30 a.m. Sept. 11, 2011, by Jerauld County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Mentzer because Mentzer could not see a rear license plate on the pickup Amick was driving. Mentzer said he looked for a temporary license, but didn’t see one until after he conducted a DUI search and arrested Amick for DUI. Mentzer shined a flashlight in the vehicle and saw an open beer bottle in the back seat. He determined Amick was driving under the influence of alcohol.

Amick and his attorney John Steele claimed the search was illegal because drunken driving was not the reason Mentzer made the stop.

A circuit court judge dismissed the case, but the prosecution appealed it to the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled in May that Amick had to face the drunken driving charge in circuit court. The Supreme Court found even if Mentzer had seen Amick’s valid temporary license, he would still have been permitted to make contact with Amick, explain the reason for the stop and tell him he was free to go. Because Mentzer saw the open beer bottle in Amick’s vehicle, Mentzer was justified in expanding the stop to investigate the new suspicion of criminal activity, the decision said.

In August, Amick pleaded guilty to the drunken driving charge. He received a suspended imposition of sentence — meaning if he abides by all the rules of his probation period, he has the chance to clear the conviction from his record.

According to court documents, Amick will serve 360 days of probation and must obey all laws and remain on good behavior during that period. He must also pay a total of $600 in fines, blood test fees and court costs.

The court suspended his driver’s license for 30 days but approved a work permit for that period.