Drunk driving activists are outraged over a recent sentence handed down to a South Dakota man for his sixteenth drunk driving conviction. Earlier in August, Robert Groethe, 60 years old, was sentenced to two years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary for his latest drunk driving conviction. Prosecutors stated that this is the longest allowable prison sentence under South Dakota law despite the fact that Groethe has 15 prior DUI convictions.
Groethe has been in trouble with the law for the past 35 years for driving while intoxicated, with his first drunk driving conviction occurring in 1977. Eleven of his 16 DUI convictions were felony offenses. His latest drunk driving offense occurred in June of this year when he was driving while intoxicated and hit a parked car outside of a casino in Rapid City, South Dakota. Groethe had a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit and caused approximately $2750 worth of damage. Since he pleaded guilty to this charge, prosecutors dropped the charge of driving with a revoked license.
Prosecutor Sarah Morrison indicated that state law only allows a ten-year look-back period on past drunk driving convictions. Due to this short time period, Groethe could be sentenced to only two years in prison with a possibility of parole in less than one year.
Anna Duerr, national spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, believes that Groethe is putting many lives at risk with his behavior. MADD currently is trying to convince states such as South Dakota to install locking devices on the cars of drivers who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated, since suspending a driver’s license does not deter drunk driving. According to Duerr, 75 percent of people convicted of a DUI will continue to drive.