South Dakota Supreme Court Decides DUI Case

On November 6, 2014, the South Dakota Supreme Court unanimously adopted a new rule regarding collateral attacks on a prior conviction used for sentencing enhancement. In State v. Chant, the State of South Dakota asked the Supreme Court to reconsider the circumstances under which a defendant may collaterally attack a prior conviction.

Harold Chant was arrested and charged with a DUI in Pennington County on December 15, 2012. When he appeared with his counsel for arraignment on February 26, 2013, the State presented a Part II Information alleging two prior convictions in Pennington County of DUI — one in 2004 and a second in 2006. Following his arraignment, Chant filed a motion to strike the Part II Information, challenging the 2004 conviction of DUI as unconstitutional. Counsel represented Chant during his charges in 2004.  As for the motion to strike, Chant argued the validity of the 2004 conviction on the premise that “the court neither re-advised Chant of his constitutional rights before he pleaded guilty nor inquired into whether his plea was voluntary at the October 25, 2004 plea hearing.” Rather, the trial court previously advised Chant of his constitutional rights at his arraignment. Due to the lack of rights advisement during the guilty plea hearing, Chant claimed that the 2004 DUI conviction could not be used for enhancement purposes.  The Circuit Court denied Chant’s motion and found that Chant entered into the 2004 plea knowingly and voluntarily.

On appeal, the Supreme Court analyzed when a defendant may collaterally attack a prior conviction for enhancement purposes. The Supreme Court determined that “that federal considerations do not require us to entertain collateral attacks on prior convictions used for enhancement purposes when a defendant was represented by counsel,” and the analysis turned to state law. Under state law, the due process clause of the South Dakota Constitution controlled the issue. The Supreme Court reasoned, “neither federal nor state constitutional grounds exist for allowing a counseled defendant to collaterally attack a predicate conviction used for enhancement purposes.” The Supreme Court created a new rule of law and held “that a defendant may only collaterally attack prior convictions used for enhancement if he or she was unrepresented by counsel when pleading guilty.”