DUI Laws in South Dakota

This article provides a comprehensive overview of DUI laws in South Dakota, including definitions, penalties, legal processes, and resources for those affected by DUI charges.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in South Dakota, carrying significant legal consequences. This article provides a comprehensive overview of DUI laws in South Dakota, including definitions, penalties, legal processes, and resources for those affected by DUI charges.

What Constitutes a DUI in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, a DUI is defined under Codified Law 32-23. A person is considered to be driving under the influence if they operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or if they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other substance that impairs their ability to drive safely. The law also applies to individuals under the age of 21 with a BAC of 0.02% or higher, under the state's zero-tolerance policy.

Source: South Dakota Codified Law 32-23

Zero Tolerance for Underage Drivers

South Dakota has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21. This means that any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can result in a DUI charge. The legal BAC limit for underage drivers is 0.02%.

South Dakota's implied consent law requires drivers to submit to chemical testing (breath, blood, or urine) if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe they are under the influence. Refusal to submit to testing can result in immediate license suspension and other penalties.

Source: South Dakota Codified Law 32-23-10

Penalties for DUI Offenses

First Offense DUI

A first-time DUI offense in South Dakota is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties may include:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Fines up to $2,000
  • License suspension for 30 days to one year
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol education or treatment program

Source: South Dakota Codified Law 32-23-2

Second Offense DUI

A second DUI offense within ten years is also a Class 1 misdemeanor but carries harsher penalties:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Fines up to $2,000
  • License suspension for one year
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol education or treatment program

Third Offense DUI

A third DUI offense within ten years is classified as a Class 6 felony. Penalties include:

  • Up to two years in prison
  • Fines up to $4,000
  • License suspension for one year
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol education or treatment program

Fourth and Subsequent Offenses

Fourth and subsequent DUI offenses are classified as Class 5 felonies, with even more severe penalties:

  • Up to five years in prison
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • License suspension for two years
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol education or treatment program

Aggravating Factors

Certain factors can aggravate DUI charges, leading to more severe penalties. These factors include:

  • Having a BAC of 0.17% or higher
  • Causing injury or death while driving under the influence
  • Having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense

Arrest and Booking

When a driver is suspected of DUI, they are typically arrested and taken to a police station for booking. This process involves recording personal information, taking fingerprints, and conducting a chemical test to determine BAC. The results of the chemical test are crucial in DUI cases.


The arraignment is the first court appearance where the defendant is formally charged with DUI. The defendant can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case proceeds to trial.

Pre-Trial Motions

Before the trial, both the defense and prosecution can file pre-trial motions. These motions may include requests to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or compel the other party to provide certain information.


During the trial, both sides present their evidence and arguments. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving under the influence. The defense can challenge the prosecution's evidence and present its own evidence and witnesses.


If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence based on the severity of the offense and any aggravating factors. Sentencing may include jail time, fines, license suspension, and mandatory participation in an alcohol education or treatment program.

Administrative Penalties

License Suspension

In addition to criminal penalties, DUI offenders face administrative penalties from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. These penalties include license suspension, which can range from 30 days to several years, depending on the number of offenses and any aggravating factors.

Source: South Dakota Department of Public Safety - Impaired Driving

Ignition Interlock Device

In some cases, the court may require the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on the offender's vehicle. An IID is a breathalyzer that prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver's BAC exceeds a preset limit. The use of an IID is a common measure to prevent repeat DUI offenses.

Challenging the Traffic Stop

One common defense is to challenge the legality of the traffic stop. If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle, any evidence obtained during the stop may be inadmissible in court.

Questioning the Accuracy of Chemical Tests

Another defense is to question the accuracy of the chemical tests used to determine BAC. Factors such as improper calibration of the testing equipment, improper administration of the test, or medical conditions affecting BAC can be used to challenge the results.

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are often used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. However, these tests can be challenged based on the officer's administration of the tests, the conditions under which they were conducted, and the defendant's physical or medical conditions.

Consequences of a DUI Conviction

Criminal Record

A DUI conviction results in a permanent criminal record, which can affect employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

Increased Insurance Rates

DUI convictions typically lead to increased auto insurance rates. Some insurance companies may even refuse to provide coverage.

Loss of Driving Privileges

License suspension or revocation can significantly impact an individual's ability to work, attend school, and fulfill other daily responsibilities.

Financial Costs

In addition to fines, DUI offenders may incur costs related to legal fees, court costs, alcohol education or treatment programs, and the installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device.

Resources for DUI Offenders

Individuals facing DUI charges are advised to seek legal assistance from an experienced DUI attorney. Legal representation can help navigate the complex legal process and potentially reduce the severity of penalties. A knowledgeable DUI lawyer can provide essential guidance.

Alcohol Education and Treatment Programs

Participation in alcohol education or treatment programs is often a mandatory part of DUI sentencing. These programs aim to address the underlying issues related to alcohol use and reduce the likelihood of reoffending. South Dakota offers various programs to support DUI offenders in their rehabilitation.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide a community of individuals who share similar experiences and can offer support and guidance for those struggling with alcohol use.

Additional Considerations

24/7 Sobriety Program

South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Program requires DUI offenders to undergo frequent alcohol testing. Participants are tested twice daily for alcohol use, ensuring compliance and reducing repeat offenses.

Chemical Dependency Programs

For offenders with substance abuse issues, participation in chemical dependency programs may be required. These programs provide comprehensive treatment and support to help individuals overcome their addiction.

Actual Physical Control

In South Dakota, a person can be charged with DUI even if they are not driving but are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired. This means that being in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition can lead to a DUI charge.

Blood Alcohol Content and Concentration

The terms blood alcohol content (BAC) and blood alcohol concentration are often used interchangeably to refer to the amount of alcohol in a person's bloodstream. The legal BAC limits are crucial in determining DUI charges and penalties.

Year License Revocation and Suspension

License revocation or suspension periods can vary based on the severity of the DUI offense and any prior convictions. It's essential to understand the specific duration of these penalties to comply with legal requirements.

State Penitentiary and Maximum Sentence

Severe DUI offenses, especially those classified as felonies, can result in incarceration in the state penitentiary. Understanding the potential maximum sentence is crucial for those facing serious DUI charges.

Unified Judicial System

South Dakota's Unified Judicial System oversees the administration of justice in DUI cases. It's important for defendants to understand how the court system operates and what to expect during their legal proceedings.


South Dakota's DUI laws are stringent, with severe penalties for those convicted. Understanding the legal framework, penalties, and available defenses is crucial for anyone facing DUI charges. By seeking legal assistance and participating in mandated programs, individuals can navigate the legal process and work towards rehabilitation. For more information on South Dakota's DUI laws, visit the official South Dakota Legislature website and the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

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Von Wooding

Von Wooding

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