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What Are South Dakota Specialized Courts?

South Dakota specialized courts are created for specific purposes and are usually referred to as problem-solving courts. Specialized courts have limited jurisdiction and seek to increase offender accountability and decrease recidivism. 

In the state of South Dakota, these courts are put in place as part of a concerted effort to combat drug-related crimes and prevent the future occurrence of such crimes. Specialty courts have the following goals:

  • Reduce recidivism rates in offenders;
  • Facilitate the sobriety of participants;
  • Increase compliance with treatment plans;
  • Improve family relationships and social support connections;
  • Increase public safety;
  • Reduce the rate of incarceration;
  • Safely reintegrate offenders into their communities.

In South Dakota, there are four types of specialty courts, including:

  • Veterans Treatment Court;
  • Driving Under Influence (DUI) Court;
  • Drug Court; and 
  • Mental Health Court

Veterans Treatment Court

The Veterans Treatment Court is a treatment program designed for veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It is a treatment program supervised by the court. Veterans who submit to the court are required to:

  • Appear regularly in court;
  • Submit to regular drug tests;
  • Attend mandatory treatment programs; 
  • Engage and participate in recommended community support groups; 
  • Submit to the entirety of the treatment program.

Participants in the Veterans Treatment Court must meet the following criteria:

  • Currently serving or has served in the United States Armed Forces;
  • Not dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces;
  • There must be a direct link between the offense and the veteran’s service;
  • Must reside within the jurisdiction of the court;
  • Must be charged with or sentenced for a felony;
  • Must not be charged with rape, manslaughter, murder, or a felonious sexual contact;
  • Must pose no risk to others
  • Must have treatable conduct, such as mental health or behavioral disorder
  • Veteran’s admission to the court must be with the consent of the state’s counsel

Instituting a Veteran’s Treatment Court case usually begins with the defense counsel, prosecution or law enforcement officer or the Judge hearing the matter. The veteran must also consent to entering and completing the treatment program. The court team must also determine whether or not to accept the veteran. Note that the presiding Judge has final authority on the veteran’s admittance.

Upon completion of the program by the veteran, the Judge may:

  • Dismiss the charges against the veteran;
  • Discharge the veteran to unsupervised probation; or
  • Discharge the veteran to supervised probation.

Generally, persons who are referred to the Veterans Treatment Court or other specialty courts are at risk of being sentenced to a correctional facility if these persons refuse to complete the program. If a veteran fails to complete the program, the case file is transferred back to the trial court.

DUI Courts

South Dakota DUI Courts are convened for persons charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Participants of a DUI Court must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Be charged with a felony;
  • Agree to enter the program;
  • Not be a drug dealer;
  • Not be a sex offender;
  • Not be violent;
  • Be willing to live where the assigned Drug Team can enforce supervision.

Persons who submit to the DUI Court are supervised by a team to continuously monitor and evaluate the offender. This team may include the Drug Court Judge, lawyers, program officers, law enforcement officers, and probation officers.

DUI cases are open to members of the public. However, DUI team meetings on the progress of an offender’s treatment plan are not opened to the public.

Drug Courts

South Dakota Drug Courts are specialized courts dealing with offenders with issues relating to substance abuse. The courts are convened to handle persons with substance abuse problems who have been charged with violations of applicable laws.

The following are criteria for participant eligibility:

  • Must be at least 18 years old;
  • Must be willing to participate in the treatment program;
  • Must not be a distributor or charged with the distribution of controlled substances;
  • Must not have been convicted of a violent offense;
  • Must not be a registered sex offender;
  • Must have been diagnosed as an alcoholic or addicted to illicit substances and is at risk of reoffending;
  • Must be resident or willing to become resident in the court’s jurisdiction for the program’s duration.

Mental Health Courts

The South Dakota Mental Health Court is a treatment program for persons with mental health issues charged with an offense. Under the program, the offender will undergo a monitored treatment plan by the Mental Health Court Team and partake in a program for a minimum of 18 months. The process may require the offender to take prescription medication as outlined by the mental health court team.

For eligibility, the person must: 

  • Be at least 18 years old; 
  • Be facing criminal charges and be eligible for probation;
  • Voluntarily agree to join the program;
  • Be willing to adhere to Mental Health Court Rules; 
  • Have mental health issues that meet Severely Mentally Ill (SMI) and IMPACT criteria;
  • Be willing to live where the mental health team can supervise them.

Persons interested in contacting any of the specialized courts may use the information available on the South Dakota Unified Judicial System’s problem-solving court’s page.

For further information, interested persons may contact -

Noreen Plumage

Director Problem Solving Courts 

500 East Capitol Avenue

Pierre South Dakota 57501


Phone: (605) 773–4161.

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