Dropping charges: Alcohol diversion program minimizes consequences

Andrew Rasmussen, Reporter

In 2017, Brookings County recorded 348 underage consumption convictions, according to Dan Nelson, the State’s Attorney for Brookings County.

In an effort to minimize this number, Brookings County is implementing an alcohol diversion program.

Nelson has been working with Lutheran Social Services on developing the program. In lieu of a criminal conviction, first-time offenders will have the option to enroll in the alcohol diversion program — consisting of a mandatory class, which stresses the importance of making responsible choices, and a community service component.

“The research shows that if you successfully complete the diversion program you’re less likely to commit future offenses, and there are currently numerous diversion programs offered around the country that have proven successful,” Nelson said.

This program seeks to offer a second chance for individuals between the ages of 18 and 20.

“If you’re a first time offender and you haven’t previously been convicted of underage consumption, you’re eligible for the program,” Nelson said.

Individuals will have 30 days after their scheduled court date to complete both the class and accompanying 15 hours of community service. Once the requirements are met, the state will dismiss the charge.

According to Nelson, the cost of the class will be comparable to the fine one would receive if convicted.

The biggest potential positive outcomes of this program include allowing individuals to prevent a one-time mistake from following them into the future while benefiting the Brookings community.

“I really think that this is going to help the Brookings community in a way that people might not initially recognize,” SDSU Students’ Association President Allyson Monson said. “We look at it as a great way to serve anyone that wants to go on in education, who wants to be a lawyer or a doctor, this gives them the opportunity to not let one mistake hold them back.”

Nelson hopes to have the program running during the 2019 spring semester, pending the readiness of the required class through Lutheran Social Services.