PLATTSMOUTH – A South Dakota man who was speeding and driving drunk in Cass County earlier this year pled guilty to his fifth DUI offense on Monday morning.
Ryan G. Christiansen, 40, accepted a plea deal during an appearance in Cass County District Court. Christiansen pled guilty to one Class IIA felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol-fifth offense. He also admitted that he had been convicted of four prior DUI offenses in South Dakota and Nebraska.
The state had originally charged Christiansen with a Class II felony of DUI-fifth offense-aggravated. Prosecutors agreed to remove the aggravated language of the felony charge in exchange for a guilty plea.
The plea deal did not contain an agreement regarding sentencing. If the court chooses to impose a statutory sentence on Christiansen, he would serve between two and 20 years in prison. If the court imposes a probation sentence, Christiansen would be required to serve at least 180 days in jail. He would have his driver’s license suspended for 15 years with either a statutory or probation sentence. Sentencing will take place Jan. 29.
Christiansen had lived in Nebraska before moving to his current hometown of Chamberlain, S.D. The current charge is his sixth lifetime DUI conviction, but prosecutors were able to use only four previous DUI charges in their case. He was convicted of DUI in Douglas County in August 2003, October 2003 and October 2007. He collected DUI convictions in South Dakota in November 2013 and December 2015.
Deputy County Attorney Colin Palm told the court a Cass County resident called emergency dispatchers at 6:32 p.m. March 2 to alert them about a reckless driver. The woman said a man was driving a green Ford Explorer in Louisville and nearly struck her car when she was parked at the corner of Main Street and Highway 50. She then saw the man drive through town in a reckless manner.
A Cass County Sheriff’s Office deputy was on duty on Highway 66 and began looking for Christiansen’s vehicle. He spotted Christiansen in the eastbound lane of the highway and then saw him pass another car at a high rate of speed. The deputy switched on his speed detector and clocked Christiansen going 92 miles per hour in a 60-mph zone.
The deputy pulled over Christiansen and smelled alcohol on his breath during their initial conversation. Palm said Christiansen told the deputy he had been drinking “a lot” of alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Christiansen was arrested after a preliminary breath test revealed a blood-alcohol content level of .250. Palm said a chemical blood test conducted at Cass County Jail later that night revealed a BAC level of .233.
Christiansen currently remains free on bond in a pre-trial release program. Palm said Christiansen had allegedly violated several of the pre-trial release requirements in the past month. He said the state would not be filing a motion to revoke the pre-trial release on Monday, but he warned Christiansen that it could be a possibility if additional violations take place in the future.