Ravnsborg named in 27 traffic stop reports across 3 states resulting in 12 tickets, 15 warnings
Documents released by the Department of Public Safety reveal Ravnsborg has an extensive history of traffic violations and has made his status as Attorney General known to authorities during multiple traffic stops.
PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been named in 27 traffic stops across three states and ticketed a dozen times, according to an investigation report publicly released this week.
In a 404-page file released by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) ahead of its briefing Wednesday to lawmakers, Ravnsborg’s full driving history became public, specifically pointing out 33-interactions with police, 27 of which were traffic stops where police named Ravnsborg as the subject.
Reaching back to 1996, a dozen of those stops resulted in Ravnsborg being ticketed for at least one traffic violation, while being let go with a written or verbal warning in 15 other stops.
Nine of his 12 tickets were for speeding, while others involved improper exhaust systems, use of an electronic device while driving and illegal lane changes. In tickets that involved speeding, there were seven instances in South Dakota for driving as much as 22 mph over the speed limit and twice in Iowa for driving 11-15 mph too fast.
Of his 15 traffic stops that resulted in no ticket being written, Ravnsborg was warned for speeding 10 times — in four of which authorities say they clocked him driving at least 10 mph over the speed limit. Other warnings were issued for stop sign violations, non-working headlights, stop sign violations, failure to produce documents and other petty offenses.
Following the September 2020 crash in which Ravnsborg struck and killed Joe Boever, a pedestrian walking along the shoulder of a highway, Ravnsborg has been subject to an impeachment inquiry by the House Select Committee on Investigation.
The committee, which has met eight times since its formation on Nov. 9, 2021, largely focused on the facts of the crash investigation and conduct of Ravnsborg immediately preceding and following the fatal crash.
Though having a history of traffic offenses is not, in itself, a disqualification from office under South Dakota law, Craig Price, secretary of DPS, described Ravnsborg’s driving history in a March 9 letter to Select Committee Chair Rep. Spencer Gosh, R-Glenham, as one part of his claim that Ravnsborg is unfit for office.
“The Attorney General's actions ... along with the context provided by the pre- and post-crash behaviors draw the conclusion that he is unfit to hold the position as the chief law enforcement officer for the state of South Dakota,” Price wrote.
Price specifically pointed out Ravnsborg’s interactions with police officers in which the Attorney General made them aware of his position.
“From the date he took office, until the date of the fatal crash, AG Ravnsborg was stopped for traffic offenses at least eight times. In six of those stops, he was operating a state vehicle,” Price’s letter read. “Of those stops where video or reports were available, he identified himself as the Attorney General verbally on four occasions and displayed a badge to the officer on another occasion. None of those stops resulted in a citation.”
In a dashcam video released by DPS, Ravnsborg, who also serves as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, is seen during a 2016 traffic stop in full military uniform interacting with a police officer in West Point, Nebraska.
Though it’s unclear the reason for the stop, as it’s not noted in DPS’s 404-page file, after speaking with Ravnsborg and taking a look at his license, the officer scratches his head and returns to his vehicle, where he broadcasts Ravnsborg’s license information over his police radio.
After a short period of time, the officer receives a phone call.
“He says he’s the Attorney General for the state of South Dakota,” the officer said into his phone. “I’m just gonna give him a warning anyways.”
In dashcam video dated Sep. 7, 2020, just five days before Ravnsborg would strike and kill Boever, a police officer in Huron approaches Ravnsborg’s vehicle pulled to the median of a divided highway after the officer claims he had failed to stop at a stop sign.
During the interaction, Ravnsborg seems confused that he’s been stopped for failing to stop. While handing over his license, Ravnsborg tells the officer he’s “actually the attorney general.”
“Oh my goodness, did you hear who he has stopped?” a voice over the officer’s radio asks after the officer reads Ravnsborg’s name to dispatch. “It’s Jason Ravnsborg pulled over. The Attorney General for the State of South Dakota.”
On the night he struck Boever, Ravnsborg, a Republican, identified himself as the Attorney General before providing his name to a 911 dispatcher.
Despite that, the Select Committee’s majority report, which recommends the House of Representatives not impeach Ravnsborg, opined that since he was returning from a campaign event, he was not acting by virtue of his office, and thus cannot be impeached for “crimes or misdemeanors in office,” per House Resolution 7001.
The Select Committee also state that Ravnsborg’s illegal lane change charge, a Class 2 misdemeanor which stemmed from the night of the fatal crash, “is a commonplace occurrence and is not an impeachable offense under the law.” Most traffic offenses in South Dakota are considered petty offenses or Class 2 misdemeanors.
Despite the Select Committee’s do-not-impeach recommendation, the House of Representatives will meet in full on April 12 for a special session to debate and consider accepting or rejecting the majority report, and whether or not further action will be taken.