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The Consequences of a Domestic Violence Charge in South Dakota


In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, domestic violence is also known as domestic abuse. It is defined as the act of injuring, threatening to injure, or attempting to injure household members. 

If you have been accused of domestic violence and want to defend your charges in court, a criminal attorney can help. The team at Alvine Law Firm in Sioux Falls, SD, have experience handling domestic violence cases and helping defendants achieve justice. 

It is possible to be falsely accused of domestic abuse, and understanding how South Dakota views this type of violence is imperative to knowing your rights. If you have violated the law, a criminal defense lawyer in Sioux Falls can still help. With their assistance, you may be able to obtain a more favorable sentence.

What Classifies as Domestic Abuse in South Dakota? 

South Dakota Codified Law 25-10-1 defines domestic abuse as  “‘Domestic abuse,’ physical harm, bodily injury, or attempts to cause physical harm or bodily injury, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm or bodily injury when occurring between persons in a relationship described in § 25-10-3.1.” 

Statute 25-10-3.1 outlines who can be legally considered a victim of domestic abuse in South Dakota:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A significant other with whom one has been in a relationship for at least 12 months.
  • A person who has a child or is expecting a child with the accused. 
  • A parent or child of the accused.
  • Siblings of the accused, including biological, adopted, and step-siblings. 

Any of these individuals are entitled to seek a temporary or permanent protection (restraining) order against their accused abuser. They can also legally press charges of domestic abuse against the accused. 

If you find yourself being arrested or charged with domestic violence, legal representation is important to achieving a fair and just sentence. For those falsely accused, a criminal lawyer can defend you in front of a judge and fight against unbased claims. 

Domestic Violence Misdemeanor vs. Felony Charges

Domestic abuse in South Dakota can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the accused party’s criminal record. Minor charges, or cases of simple assault domestic violence, carry the lowest sentence with one (1) year in county jail and/or a $2,000 fine. The same possible charge applies to violating a protection order.

Misdemeanors become felonies when a defendant has two or more domestic violence convictions on their criminal record. These charges can include simple assault, aggravated assault, stalking, and strangulation.

Aggravated assault and strangulation are Class 3 felonies under South Dakota law for repeat offenders (Codified Law 22-18-1.1) Violation of a protection order is a Class 1 misdemeanor for first-time offenders, but it becomes a Class 6 felony if the accused has two or more previous domestic abuse convictions within the last 10 years (Codified Laws 22-19A-1; 22-19A-2).

Immediate Consequences of Arrest

Following a primary investigation, the police may arrest you on suspicion of domestic abuse. You may also be arrested if law enforcement believes there is sufficient evidence to support a domestic violence charge. 

Alleged abusers can still be arrested in South Dakota even if the victim does not press charges. Law enforcement will determine whether or not the accused should be in custody. 

After being arrested, accessed aggressors go through a booking process that includes mugshots and fingerprinting. They will be held in the county jail until they are seen by a judge (arraignment) to be formally charged and informed of their rights. 

Many judges issue temporary no-contact orders between the alleged abuser and victim(s). Victims can also request a temporary restraining order (TRO) in court, which offers additional protection. Violating either order can lead to serious legal consequences. If you have any questions or concerns about the terms of the agreement or your charges, consult with a criminal lawyer. The team at Alvine Law Firm in Sioux Falls, SD, can help. We offer free consultations to discuss your case.

The judge will set bail during the arraignment. They can also require pre-release conditions, including:

  • Clinical mental health screenings and counseling
  • Participation in domestic violence intervention programs
  • Surrendering firearms or other weapons to authorities 

Remember that these are general potential consequences, and each individuals’ case is unique. Lawyers offer legal guidance and can help minimize penalties in your situation. They can also help build a strong defense if you have been wrongfully accused, arrested, or charged.

Legal Proceedings and Potential Sentencing

South Dakota has established procedures for addressing domestic violence cases. Here is an overview of potential legal proceedings and sentencing outcomes:

  • Arrest and Legal Investigation: You may be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, and a legal investigation may gather evidence that is presented to a judge.
  • Arraignment: You will appear before a judge who will decide whether or not to officially charge you. 
  • Pre-trial Release: You will have a trial for your case scheduled and possibly released beforehand. A no-contact order may be issued against the victim(s), and they may personally choose to file a separate restraining order. The judge will also set your bail amount and any pre-release conditions (Codified Laws 25-10-5).
  • Discovery Period: Prior to the trial, both parties can gather evidence and witness information (if applicable) to defend their case in court. Now is the time to contact an attorney to represent your best interests. 
  • Plea Negotiations: It may be possible to resolve your case without going to trial if your defense attorney and prosecutor can negotiate a settlement with a plea. 
  • Trial: If no plea is reached, then a judge or jury will determine guilt based on presented evidence and arguments presented in court.
  • Sentencing: After a verdict is reached, the judge will sentence you based on your charges and criminal history. 

Possible Charges and Statute Limitations

The following are possible charges you may face for domestic violence in South Dakota.  

  • Simple Assault Domestic Violence (SADV) — Misdemeanor: Minor injuries or harm to the victim; punishable by up to one (1) year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
  • Aggravated Assault — Felony: Serious acts that involve weapons or cause significant harm to the victim. Penalties vary based on the class of the felony, which can range from two (2) to 15 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $30,000.
  • Strangulation — Felony: Attempted strangulation is a Class 5 felony with a maximum prison sentence of five (5) years and a $10,000 fine.
  • Protection Order Violation — Misdemeanor or Felony: Depending on whether it is your first offense or a repeat offense, violating a protection order in South Dakota can be a misdemeanor or felony. The minimum punishment is up to one (1) year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The Role of a Lawyer in Domestic Abuse Defense

For individuals facing criminal sentencing, a defense lawyer can help provide guidance and support. They can help you gather evidence to build a case that may result in charges being dismissed or reduce your sentencing to more favorable terms. 

Working with a defense lawyer does not mean getting away with a crime you committed. Instead, it is about achieving justice for victims while ensuring you are sentenced fairly. They may be able to help you achieve a plea bargain, which can lower the potential legal consequences of your crime and help you spend less time in jail or prison.

Long-Term Legal Consequences of Domestic Abuse Charges 

Domestic abuse charges are a serious offense, and whether they are a misdemeanor or felony, they will stay on your criminal record for years. This can impact your eligibility for employment and other opportunities based on background checks.

Having domestic abuse charges also affects your child custody and visitation rights. A judge may prohibit you from being around your children or only permit you to visit them under supervision depending on the circumstances. 

You could also lose the right to carry firearms under federal law, and your charges could have an impact on housing, government assistance, and immigration status or naturalization (if applicable). 

Additional Penalties and Requirements

Many individuals who are charged with domestic violence are mandated to participate in counseling or anger management programs. There are domestic violence classes that help individuals learn from their actions and avoid repeating the same behaviors in the future. 

Community service and probation conditions vary case by case. You may also have to pay restitution to the victim, which is separate from any fines you are ordered to pay during your sentencing. 

Social and Economic Consequences

People with domestic violence charges may face social isolation as a result. There can be a serious impact on professional licenses you hold and career advancement, as well as financial hardship from legal fees and related expenses.

If you have been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, it  is imperative to build a strong defense case that can clear your name. Working with the team at Alvine Law Firm in Sioux Falls could help you work toward justice. Contact us for a free consultation. 

Alternatives and Diversion Programs

For young adult offenders, Sioux Falls follows the state of South Dakota’s 2nd circuit. These programs can allow qualifying individuals in non-violent cases to avoid jail time by participating in an alternative program. The goal is to divert offenders from repeat actions and help them build useful skills that help them thrive in the future.

In order to qualify for a diversion program, you must be 18 to 25-years-old and provide documentation of completion to the court. You will also be required to adhere to all the terms and conditions laid out in your diversion contract. 

Seeking Help and Resources

The South Dakota State Bar offers a list of free and low-cost resources to help people in legal matters. These include:

Victims and concerned family members or friends can also contact the National Domestic Violence Support Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).


Domestic violence has devastating emotional and psychological impacts on victims. Many offenders are also coping with their own mental health struggles and need additional support to avoid repeating history. In some cases, people may be accused of domestic abuse when they are not guilty, and they need to work with a defense lawyer to help them recover and avoid being unfairly imprisoned. 

Reach out to Alvine Law Firm in Sioux Falls for support. Our team of criminal lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and explore potential outcomes for your case. Contact us today at 605-275-0808 to schedule a free consultation.

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