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HB 1197 Redundant with Existing Vandalism Law, May Lower Punishment for Destroying Public Monuments

Here’s another needless bill from our legislators. The Republican mother-son team of Rep. Lana and Sen. Brock Greenfield offer House Bill 1197, a measure intended to punish anyone who “damages, destroys, or defaces any monument, statue, or memorial designated as a historical or cultural landmark….”

I haven’t heard what rash of monument-busting the Greenfields may have in mind, but given the assortment of radical right-wingers backing this bill (Brunner, Frye-Mueller, Phil Jensen, Stace Nelson, Stalzer…), I get the sneaking suspicion that somewhere in South Dakota there’s some Confederate plaque or statue of Custer that some white Trumpist snowflake is worried will be subjected to the proper disrespect or displacement.

The language seems overly broad; if the Greenfields and their co-sponsors were worried about regular vandalism, we already have a law, SDCL 22-34-1, which prohibits and punishes unauthorized injury, damage, and destruction of property, public and private, whether or not it has historical or cultural significance.

If HB 1197 is intended to replace the existing vandalism law in cases dealing with significant monuments, statues, and memorials, it would actually reduce the penalty for all but the piddliest of such mischief:

Damage SDCL 22-34-1 penalty max punishment
[0, $400] Class 2 misdemeanor 30 days county jail, $500
($400, $1000] Class 1 misdemeanor one year, $2K
($1K, $2.5K] Class 6 felony two years pen, $4K
($2.5K, $5K] Class 5 felony five years, $10K
($5,000, $100K] Class 4 felony ten years, $20K
($100K, $500K] Class 3 felony fifteen years, $30K
($500K, ∞) Class 2 felony 25 years, $50K
Monumental damage HB 1197 penalty max punishment
[$0, $5K] Class 1 misdemeanor one year, $2K
($5K, ∞) Class 6 felony two years pen, $4K

Damage up to $400 goes up from a Class 2 misdemeanor to Class 1 under HB 1197, so for Pete’s sake, be careful at the museum. But HB 1197 lowers the maximum penalty for monumental damage greater than $1,000. Doing over $1,000 in damage makes you a felon now; HB 1197 spares you a felony conviction until your destruction tallies over $5,000. Blow up Dale Lamphere’s million-dollar Dignity statue, and South Dakota’s current vandalism statute nails you with a Class 2 felony, with up to $25 years in the state penitentiary and a $50,000 fine (for what good that will do). Pass HB 1197 to supersede the current penalty, and at worst, you Dignity dynamiters will only get two years and a $4,000 fine (and then only if Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg manages to repeal presumptive probation).

At worst, HB 1197 appears be soft on crime. At the very least, it is redundant, issuing new penalties for malfeasance already covered by vandalism law.

I thus have to go back to my conservative roots and say House Bill 1197 is unnecessary. Don’t pass new laws we don’t need. Don’t pass HB 1197.


  1. Chris S. 2019-01-31 12:39

    Are the vandals in Pierre going to get around to addressing any actual problems facing the state? It seems like most of the bills they’re pushing are rooted in their feverish Culture War issues. Furthermore, their shoddy bills get tangled up with laws we already have on the books to address these “problems” – if such problems should ever actually occur.

  2. Justin Roemmick 2019-01-31 15:39

    I have been thoroughly enjoying, as I always do, your take on legislative affairs. Keep up the great work Cory!

  3. Debbo 2019-01-31 15:40

    Just exactly what Chris S. said, verbatim.

  4. mtr 2019-01-31 21:25

    I think “designated as a historical or cultural landmark” would also be an issue. “Designated” by whom? The Poet’s Table in Custer State Park was damage, stolen, etc. But I don’t think it was officially “designated” as historical. Would it need to be officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Would a G.A.R. tombstones not count because they aren’t designated?

  5. JW 2019-02-01 10:41

    These folks are blessed with gross neglect of their own law or legal history and have never been able to demonstrate the ability to think past their drippy nose….. Once again, there is no effort to determine if there is even a problem much less identify a problem in cogent terms. I’m surprised that the mendacious manipulator from the southern hills district (Goodwin) isn’t a co-sponsor…….. None of them have figured out that things that aren’t broken don’t need to be fixed.

  6. mike from iowa 2019-02-01 13:14

    How do state lakes and streams figure in as monuments when the lege seems hell, bent on polluting them? Does potable water for humans necessarily take a backseat to profit making CAFOS? Curious iowan wants to know because we have the same and even larger problems with water here.

  7. Debbo 2019-02-01 13:55

    CAFOs are 20th century technology. Advanced nations are turning to other ways to be productive. Wouldn’t it be nice if SD would stop bringing up the rear and join the current century? Bold leadership is needed for that and it won’t come from the SDGOP.

  8. Francis Schaffer 2019-02-01 14:58

    So will this affect Mt. Rushmore? Perspective is a stupid thing to rely upon when enforcing any law.
    My opinion of course.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-02 13:39

    I wondered about Mt. Rushmore, Francis. The bill text doesn’t distinguish, so I would assume it applies to any monument.

    At this morning’s crackerbarrel, Rep. Lana Greenfield said her intent is to double-charge statue vandals under both the existing vandalism statute and her proposed new law.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-02 13:42

    Hmm… lakes and streams… are any bodies of water in the state officially designated as monuments or historical or cultural significance? Given MTR’s point about the vague passive construction, can my family, or maybe just those of us reading this blog, or maybe the Lake Herman Sanitary District deem Lake Herman a monument of cultural significance and proceed to ticket every CAFO and manure spreader in the watershed for damaging water quality?

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