Guilty plea to vehicular battery

Brookings County Sheriff's Office photo: Dustin Hartse

BROOKINGS – A Brookings man who injured another driver last summer while driving drunk and eluding police has pleaded guilty to vehicular battery.

Dustin Hartse, 36, entered his plea in Brookings County Circuit Court on Tuesday. He was indicted by a Brookings County grand jury on July 16.

The indictment says that on July 5, while under the influence of alcohol, Hartse operated a motor vehicle in a negligent manner and caused serious bodily injury to another person.

In exchange for the guilty plea, charges of aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer and DUI were dismissed.

No additional charges will be brought in the case, and restitution of more than $6,000 will be paid as a condition of the sentence. The State will defer to the court at sentencing.

Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson said law enforcement tried to stop Hartse for speeding last summer, but Hartse increased his speed to elude the officer. Hartse then struck another vehicle, and the driver suffered whiplash-type injuries, Nelson said.

After his arrest, Hartse’s blood-alcohol content was above .2, Nelson added.

In court Tuesday, Hartse admitted that he was drinking before driving on July 5, and that he hit another vehicle, injuring its driver. Hartse also admitted that his BAC was above .2 after his arrest.

Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg accepted the factual basis and ordered a pre-sentence report. Sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 8.

Vehicular battery is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Nelson said the case demonstrates the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving.

“Everyone needs to realize that vehicular battery could be the result when you decide to drive drunk. Mr. Hartse made that decision and will now face the consequences for it. The innocent victims in this case and the entire community deserve safe roadways to drive on. We take DUIs seriously in Brookings County and will continue to strictly enforce the law,” Nelson said in a statement.

Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]