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South Dakota Court Records

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What Are South Dakota Traffic Court Records?

South Dakota are records created during the hearing of traffic violation offenses in traffic courts across the state. These include all legal documents, court recordings and other files created from the proceedings of the court.

Are South Dakota Traffic Court Records Public Records?

South Dakota traffic records are considered to be public records. Access to these types of records is available to members of the public and guaranteed by the South Dakota Freedom of Information Act. The only exceptions are records that have been restricted by a court order or by the law.

Which Courts in South Dakota have jurisdiction to hear traffic violation matters?

In South Dakota, traffic violation matters can be heard in Magistrate Court or Circuit Court, depending on the type of offense. Petty offenses and misdemeanors are held in Magistrate Court, while felonies are heard in Circuit Court.

How Do I Find South Dakota Traffic Court Records?

South Dakota employs a statewide record search program, so traffic court records can be found online with the South Dakota Public Access Record System, which searches for criminal records. Physical records can be obtained by submitting a request at the Office of the Clerk of the court who has custody of the records. The requester of the record will need to know which court heard the case, to be able to identify where the records are located.

Additionally, publicly available records may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

What information is required to obtain South Dakota Traffic Court Records?

To obtain South Dakota traffic court records, the requestor will need to provide pertinent information about the record which will include the full name on the record and the case or citation number of the record. If the requestor requires copies of the record, then the requestor will need to provide a valid (and state-approved) form of identification and pay all applicable fees.

Can South Dakota Traffic Records be sealed or expunged?

Yes, some records can be sealed. South Dakota expungement laws allow for an arrested person to apply (to the court that would have had jurisdiction) for entry of an expungement order for the record of arrest:

  • After 1 year from the date of arrest, if no accusatory instrument was filed
  • With the consent of the prosecuting attorney, at any time after the prosecutor formally dismisses the case
  • At any time after acquittal

An automatic removal (expungement) shall be made for petty offenses, municipal ordinance violations or Class 2 misdemeanor convictions, from a record, 10 years after the final disposition, if all court-ordered conditions have been satisfied.

How does one end up in a South Dakota Traffic court?

A defendant ends up in South Dakota traffic court if the defendant receives a citation for a traffic violation from a law enforcement officer and:

  • The citation (ticket) indicates that a court appearance is required to respond to the charges.
  • The defendant wishes to contest the charges.

Getting a Traffic Ticket in South Dakota

A Uniform Traffic Summons and Complaint ticket is a form issued, in the state of South Dakota, by a law enforcement officer for the citation of traffic offenses. It is a sworn statement by the officer, regarding the observed violation. The ticket will be completed by the officer before issuing it to the offender. The ticket will contain information about the offense and instructions on how to respond to the ticket. The officer when completing the ticket will contain;

  • The county where, the violation occurred and, the ticket as issued
  • The court, which has jurisdiction over the violation
  • Location of the incident, with time and date
  • Name of the offender, with the current address. The ticket will also contain details about the offender’s physical characteristics including age (date of birth), height, weight, race, sex, etc.
  • Details about the offender’s driver’s license including license number and state of issuance
  • Information about the vehicle involved in the violation
  • A description of the violation (in the officer’s words). Officer will indicate if the violation is a petty offense or misdemeanor and include any other relevant information
  • Officer name, Identification number, and signature.
  • “Summons and Notice to Appear” section, which will list the court where the offender should appear and indicate if the court appearance is mandatory

The defendant will sign, as an acknowledgment and a Promise to Appear to the aforementioned court on the indicated day to answer to the charges. A fine amount will also be listed and if not then the offender must appear in court. Typically for misdemeanor offense complaints and summons, a power of attorney form will be attached. This form enables the offender to deposit a “bond”, with the Clerk of the Courts. The bond can be received by the officer, and the officer will indicate if this is the case. If the offender fails to appear in court, it shall be taken as a guilty plea and the bond shall be used as part-payment for the fine and costs assessed against the offender.

Traffic fines in South Dakota vary by violation, but fines for each violation tend to be uniform statewide. Fines will usually be indicated on the citation. If they are not, this might be because the violation is not listed on the state’s bond schedule. These types of violations require a court appearance. Traffic violations, in South Dakota, are typically petty offenses and Class 2 misdemeanors but can also be Class 1 misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the severity of the offense. Convictions for traffic violations are reported to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) and result in demerit points being assessed to a driver’s record. Accumulating 15 points in 12 months or 22 points in 24 months will lead to license suspension for up to 60 days the first time, 6 months for the second time and 1 year for a third occurrence.

South Dakota traffic violations and infractions are categorized as Moving Violations or Non-moving Violations. Moving violations are committed by vehicles in motion and Non-moving violations mostly refer to parking violations and equipment violations. Non-moving violations can also occur in moving vehicles such as failure to wear a seatbelt. Moving violation convictions are reported to the South Dakota DPS and result in points being assessed to a driver’s record, but non-moving violations are not reported and carry no points.

What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in South Dakota?

After receiving a traffic ticket in South Dakota a response must be made to the ticket. The offender can choose to admit the charges (and pay the traffic ticket) or deny the charges (and contest the ticket). Whichever response that is decided on must be made before the deadline indicated on the ticket or the offender could face added repercussions.

Admitting to the Charge

This can be done by paying the fine, It indicates that a plea of “Guilty” or “No Contest” has been entered. It will be noted as a conviction and a report will be sent to the South Dakota DPS and, if applicable, demerit points will be added to the driver’s record. Payment can be made:

  • Online- Tickets eligible for online payments can be paid with the Unified Justice System Portal
  • By Mail: Complete ticket appropriately and mail with a check or money order for the fine amount, to the clerk of the court, indicated on the ticket.
  • In-Person: Complete ticket appropriately and deliver to the office of the clerk of the court, indicated on the ticket.

The officer might allow the offender to make a deposit (Bond) upon receiving the ticket. If this is the case, the officer must notify the defendant (in writing) that failure to pay the rest of the fine or appear in court will result in a forfeiture of the bond and a guilty verdict against the defendant.

Denying the Charge

This indicates the defendant’s intention to contest the ticket. To do so, a plea of Not Guilty must be entered at the court. South Dakota courts require the plea to be submitted in person at the arraignment i.e. court date indicated on the ticket. If facing a petty offense or misdemeanor charge, the plea will be submitted to Magistrate Court and if the charge is for a felony, the plea will be submitted to Circuit Court. Once the plea has been accepted, a date will be set for an optional dispositional conference (Magistrate Court) or preliminary hearing (Circuit Court).

For misdemeanors, the defendant has the option of attending a dispositional conference with the prosecuting attorney to negotiate a plea deal. This usually requires the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge or obtain a lighter sentence for the guilty plea. If the defendant and the prosecutor are unable to reach an agreement, then the case will move over to trial and a date will be set.

For felonies, the defendant will have the option of a preliminary hearing. At the hearing, an South Dakota Circuit Court judge will decide if there is enough evidence for the State to bring a case against the defendant. If the judge finds so, then a trial date will be assigned otherwise the case will be dismissed.

If a trial date is set, then both parties will present their case at the trial and the judge will render a verdict at the conclusion of the trial. If the defendant is found guilty, then the court will administer the sentence and the defendant will be liable for all accruable fines and costs. The conviction will be reported to the South Dakota DPS and if applicable, demerit points will be assessed on the driver’s record. If the defendant is found Not Guilty, then all charges will be dismissed and the defendant will be freed on all charges and face no penalties. If a bond was paid by the defendant, this will be returned.

Note: Failure to appear for any scheduled court date could result in additional fines, a license suspension and even an arrest warrant being issued.

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South Dakota Traffic Court Records