South Dakota K-9 units sometimes assist law enforcement in determining if there are drugs inside a vehicle during a traffic stop. As reported by The Globe, during one such occurrence in January 2019, a K-9 assisted in the arrest of three out-of-state individuals on drug charges.

This incident is an example of how out-of-state offenders helped make South Dakota the number one state for drug arrests per capita. The attention-getting state ranking, however, may prove to be less significant when taking a closer look at some of the contributing factors.

Differing state laws and other factors can affect South Dakota’s drug arrest ranking

As noted by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, statistics compiled by the FBI show that South Dakota law enforcement made more than 65,500 arrests related to drug charges in 2017. When compared to the Mount Rushmore State’s low population rank, the per-capita ranking of drug arrests compared to population may help place the state high on the list. The FBI statistics also exclude data regarding the tribal population, which accounts for a significant portion of the state’s demographics.

Differences in state laws also account for South Dakota’s high drug arrest ranking. While some states levy penalties for drug offenses based on factors such as the weight and type of drug, South Dakota relies on a simplified “one-size-fits-all” blanket felony criteria for drug charges. The type of controlled substance in the offender’s possession and its weight typically do not factor into the blanket felony charges unless there is an intent to distribute.

Some SD drug arrests can result in heavy penalties

In another arrest involving out-of-state offenders and reported by the Daily Republic during July 2019, South Dakota law enforcement arrested three individuals from Minnesota during a traffic stop. The charges could earn the offenders more than 40 years each in prison. The officer initially stopped the vehicle for speeding, but after smelling marijuana, a search uncovered 372 grams of THC products, six pounds of raw marijuana, more than 100 vape cartridges and 40 packages of THC edibles.

Unlike many other states, SD maintains strict laws regarding recreational marijuana. Charged with an intent to distribute illegal cannabis products rather than possession, the three out-of-staters may require an aggressive defense to reduce their charges or lower the penalties.