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South Dakota Criminal Law: An Overview

Fighting a criminal conviction or pursuing a criminal lawsuit against an offender can be a complex process with plenty of legal obstacles to overcome. But if you go into it armed with some knowledge about the South Dakota criminal laws that are pertinent to your case, you can overcome many of the obstacles. This is especially true if you also involve an attorney in the process.

Use LawInfo's criminal law articles to help educate yourself about South Dakota's laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a South Dakota criminal law attorney in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Aberdeen or elsewhere in the state.

South Dakota Criminal Statute of Limitations

If you are a victim of a crime, you may not want to wait too long to commence a legal action for recovery. Depending on the classification of the crime you are a victim of, you may have a limited amount of time before the criminal is free from legal liability. South Dakota's criminal statute of limitations governs the time limits placed on the commencement of legal action against certain classes of crimes.

The state's criminal statute of limitations is very straightforward. Prosecutions against Class A, Class B and Class C felonies have no time limits. Prosecutions against all other crime classes have a seven-year limit. The statute of limitations on theft and forgery offenses may begin "running" (counting down) after the discovery of the crime. A statute of limitation for an offense may be paused if the criminal does not inhabit the state and will begin running again once they re-enter the state.

South Dakota Capital Punishment

First-degree felony murder is the only offense in South Dakota that may be sentenced to the death penalty (also known as capital punishment). Executions are carried out by lethal injection these days. However, as of 2017, only three criminals have been executed in the state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1972.

To seek the death penalty, the court and jury must find one or more aggravating factors using evidence that may upgrade first-degree murder to a capital homicide offense. These factors include:

  • The murderer has a prior Class A or Class B conviction or a violent felony conviction.
  • The murderer used a weapon or device that created a risk of death to more than one person.
  • The murderer was contracted to kill the victim by a third party.
  • The killing was committed while the murderer was in or has escaped from custody from law enforcement.

Crime Classifications in South Dakota

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. South Dakota has two main criminal offense classifications, in order of seriousness: felonies and misdemeanors.

Felonies are distinguished from misdemeanors simply by the fact that they are penalized with imprisonment in a state penitentiary. Felonies are sub-classified according to the seriousness of the offense and the severity of the penalties, which include:

  • Class A felonies—Mandatory death or life imprisonment and an optional fine of $50,000.
  • Class B felonies—Mandatory life imprisonment and an optional fine of $50,000.
  • Class C felonies—Life imprisonment and an optional fine of $50,000.
  • Class 1 felonies—50 years of imprisonment and an optional fine of $50,000.
  • Class 2 felonies—25 years of imprisonment and an optional fine of $50,000.
  • Class 3 felonies—15 years of imprisonment and an optional fine of $30,000.
  • Class 4 felonies—10 years of imprisonment and an optional fine of $30,000.
  • Class 5 felonies—Five years of imprisonment and an optional fine of $10,000.
  • Class 6 felonies—Two years of imprisonment and an optional fine of $4,000.

Misdemeanors have fewer sub-classifications and less severe penalties. Imprisonment sentences for misdemeanors are carried out in county jails instead of state penitentiaries. There are only two misdemeanor classes: Class 1 misdemeanors receive one year of imprisonment and/or a $2,000 fine, while Class 2 misdemeanors receive 30 days of imprisonment and/or a $500 fine.

Speak to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified criminal defense lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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