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South Dakota Parole Board Improperly Enhanced Prisoner’s Parole Date
Lloyd Rowley was convicted of two Class 4 felonies on October 12, 2007. His sentence was enhanced two levels – to the equivalent of Class 2 felonies – because he was a habitual offender, and he received 21 years in prison for both convictions.
Pursuant to SDCL 24-15A-32, defendants convicted of Class 4 felonies must serve 40 percent of their sentences before parole eligibility while those convicted of Class 2 felonies have to serve 50 percent of their sentences.
Since his sentence had been enhanced, the Department of Corrections (DOC) calculated Rowley’s initial parole date using the Class 2 percentage rather than the Class 4 percentage. The Board subsequently affirmed the DOC’s initial parole date calculation; Rowley filed an appeal in circuit court, which upheld the Board’s decision.
The South Dakota Supreme Court reversed, finding that the plain language of the habitual offender statute, SDCL 22-7-8.1, “indicates that the sentence is enhanced, not the principal felony.”
The Court concluded: “By its plain language, SDCL 22-7-8.1 does not substantively change the principal felony nor does the reference to SDCL 24-15A-32 in the last sentence of SDCL 22-7-8.1 demonstrate legislative intent to enhance the felony class when determining an inmate’s parole eligibility date pursuant to SDCL 24-15A-32.” Therefore, “the Board acted without authority in determining that Rowley was a Class 2 felon when calculating his initial parole date.”
Justice Glen Severson issued a dissenting opinion. See: Rowley v. South Dakota Board of Pardons & Paroles, 2013 SD 6, 826 N.W.2d 360 (S.D. 2013).
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