South Dakota Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Openly or Concealed

  • Any kind of knife
flag of South Dakota
flag of South Dakota

South Dakota Knife Law Overview

South Dakota can barely be said to have laws covering knives at all; you can carry absolutely any kind of knife you please, and there are no restrictions based on type, action, length or any other physical metric since about 2006.

The only restrictions covering the use and carry of knives regard carrying one with intent to commit a felonious act.

This is great news, but there are still naturally a few prohibited locations you cannot carry you knives in and there is regrettably no statewide preemption, so major cities may (and do) have their own restrictions on knives.

We’ll have a gander at the most relevant statutes covering carry and possession of knives in South Dakota below.

Relevant South Dakota State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • SDCL 13-32-7
  • SDCL 22-1-2
  • SDCL 22-14-8
  • SDCL 22-14-23
  • SDCL 23-7-7

Any state statutes include definitions of common words so you know exactly what they are talking about.

This ideally lets you avoid a “what the definition of ‘is’, is” moment, and occasionally discover some pretty interesting conceits that change the landscape of the laws you thought you knew. South Dakota has one such highly interesting example. Definitions below in Chapter 22-1-2:

22-1-2. Definition of terms.

Terms used in this title mean:

(1) If applied to the intent with which an act is done or omitted:

(a) The words, “malice, maliciously,” and all derivatives thereof import a wish to intentionally vex, annoy, or injure another person, established either by proof or presumption of law;

(c) The words, “knowledge, knowingly,” and all derivatives thereof, import only a knowledge that the facts exist which bring the act or omission within the provisions of any statute. A person has knowledge if that person is aware that the facts exist which bring the act or omission within the provisions of any statute. Knowledge of the unlawfulness of such act or omission is not required;

(d) The words, “reckless, recklessly,” and all derivatives thereof, import a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of a substantial risk that the offender’s conduct may cause a certain result or may be of a certain nature. A person is reckless with respect to circumstances if that person consciously and unjustifiably disregards a substantial risk that such circumstances may exist;

(e) The words, “neglect, negligently,” and all words derived thereof, import a want of attention to the nature or probable consequences of an act or omission which a prudent person ordinarily bestows in acting in his or her own concerns;

(f) If the section defining an offense provides that negligence suffices to establish an element thereof, then recklessness, knowledge, intent, or malice also constitutes sufficient culpability for such element. If recklessness suffices to establish an element of the offense, then knowledge, intent or malice also constitutes sufficient culpability for such element. If knowledge suffices to establish an element of an offense, then intent or malice also constitutes sufficient culpability for such element. If intent suffices to establish an element of an offense, then malice also constitutes sufficient culpability for such element;

(2) “Actor,” the person who takes the active part in a transaction;

(3) “Affirmative defense,” an issue involving an alleged defense to which, unless the state’s evidence raises the issue, the defendant, to raise the issue, must present some credible evidence. If the issue involved in an affirmative defense is raised, then the guilt of the defendant must be established beyond a reasonable doubt as to that issue as well as all other elements of the offense;

(b) The words, “intent, intentionally,” and all derivatives thereof, import a specific design to cause a certain result or, if the material part of a charge is the violation of a prohibition against conduct of a certain nature, regardless of what the offender intends to accomplish thereby, a specific design to engage in conduct of that nature;

(6) “Concealed,” any firearm that is totally hidden from view. If any part of the firearm is capable of being seen, it is not concealed;

(10) “Dangerous weapon” or “deadly weapon,” any firearm, stun gun, knife, or device, instrument, material, or substance, whether animate or inanimate, which is calculated or designed to inflict death or serious bodily harm, or by the manner in which it is used is likely to inflict death or serious bodily harm;

(44A) “Serious bodily injury,” such injury as is grave and not trivial, and gives rise to apprehension of danger to life, health, or limb;

The standard fare most of us in the business of defense and use of force are used to seeing, dangerous weapons, great bodily harm, reckless, negligence, etc. etc., hold no surprises.

What is highly surprising is (6) Concealed; in this example, concealed inherently applies only to a firearm as used throughout the statutes! Color that an oddity, but there it is in black and white.

In the case of SD, “concealment” is only legally applicable to firearms, not knives or other bladed weapons. See? You would have missed that entirely had you not read the definitions!

The next pertinent section is short and sweet. 22-14-8 reads:

22-14-8. Concealment of weapon with intent to commit felony—

Felony. Any person who conceals on or about his or her person a controlled or dangerous weapon with intent to commit a felony is guilty of a Class 5 felony.

This seemingly redundant passage reveals much: First, concealing a controlled or dangerous weapon is a felony offense only if one does so with the intent to commit a felony.

Therefore, if you set out with a knife, any knife, concealed on or about your person and you have no felonious intent, you have committed no crime nor violation of the statutes. It is just that simple, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it deceptively simple.

There is one non-knife related statute I would like to make mention of here because I believe it further codifies the legislatures intent in the state. 23-7-7 talks about permitting for concealed carry of a pistol, and the language within this short section is very interesting. It reads:

23-7-7. Permit to carry concealed pistol–Background investigation–Carrying pistol without permit not prohibited.

A permit to carry a concealed pistol shall be issued to any person by the sheriff of the county in which the applicant resides. The permit shall be valid throughout the state and shall be issued pursuant to § 23-7-7.1. For purposes of verifying the qualifications of an applicant, prior to issuing a permit, the sheriff shall execute, and the applicant shall pass, a background investigation, including a computer check of available on-line records and the National Instant Criminal Background Check. The issuance of a permit to carry a concealed pistol under this chapter, or the recognition of nonresident permits to carry a concealed pistol under § 23-7-7.4, does not impose a general prohibition on the carry of a pistol without a permit.

It is a rarity to see lawmakers go out of their way to clarify, in the statutes, that carry of a pistol or other weapon is indeed permissible without a permit to do so. This is a clue into the staunchly pro-2nd Amendment mindset of the lawmakers, and their resultant laws on the books.

No-Go Zones

Public schools, courthouses and state capitol buildings. Not including private schools, anyone aside from a badged law enforcement officer or school sentinel who carries a firearm or dangerous weapon (which specifically includes knives writ large) on school premises or in school buildings is guilty of a misdemeanor:

13-32-7. Possession of firearm or dangerous weapon on public elementary or secondary school premises or in vehicle or building as misdemeanor—Exceptions.

Any person, other than a law enforcement officer or school sentinel under § 13-64-1, who intentionally carries, possesses, stores, keeps, leaves, places, or puts into the possession of another person, any dangerous weapon, firearm, or air gun, whether or not the firearm or air gun is designed, adapted, used, or intended to be used primarily for imitative or noisemaking purposes, on or in any public elementary or secondary school premises, vehicle, or building, or on or in any premises, vehicle, or building used or leased for public elementary or secondary school functions, whether or not any person is endangered by any action under this section, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The provisions of this section do not apply to;

(1) Use of a starting gun at an athletic event;

(2) Any firearm or air gun at a:

(a) Firing range;

(b) Gun show;

(c) Supervised school or session for training in the use of firearms; or

(d) Ceremonial presence of unloaded weapons at color guard ceremonies;

(3) Any nonpublic school;

(4) Any church or other house of worship; or

(5) Any nonpublic school located on the premises of a church or other house of worship.

You’ll also notice that churches, temples and other houses of worship are specifically excluded from the confines of this section, as are the above mentioned private schools. The only other places you are expressly prohibited from carrying a knife are the state capitol grounds and courtroom facilities. 22-14-23 has more:

22-14-23. Possession in county courthouse or state capitol–Misdemeanor.

Except as provided in § 22-14-24, any person who knowingly possesses or causes to be present any firearm or other dangerous weapon, in any county courthouse or in the state capitol, or attempts to do so, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.


Sadly there are no preemption laws in South Dakota to keep municipal laws from spoiling what would otherwise be a pristine carry-rights ecosystem.

It will be your responsibility to brush up on city and county ordinances that might prohibit you from carrying what is otherwise a completely legal blade. This is especially unfortunate in a state with laws as permissive as South Dakota’s!

A few examples of the many restrictive variations of local knife laws you can expect to run into in major settlements:

  • Deadwood, of HBO series fame: You cannot carry any unconcealed bowie knife, dirk or “other dangerous or deadly weapon” on a public transport. Other weapons included in that restriction.
  • Sioux Falls: You are forbidden from carrying concealed any dagger, dirk or bowie knife, among other weapons. No other permission granted.
  • Rapid City: You cannot carry concealed any knife with a blade exceeding 3” in length, or any other “sharp or dangerous weapon” that could be employed in attack or defense of the person. “employed in attack or defense” is the actual language used in the ordinance and especially troubling if you are a self-defense minded person residing or travelling through Rapid City.
  • Sturgis, Home of a Big Motorcycle Rally: You cannot carry a concealed knife unless you are a badged cop, or holder of a SD concealed handgun permit, or out of state reciprocal equivalent.

If there are these few, there are surely others. Make it a point to find, read and understand the local laws of any municipalities you will be traveling through regularly. Ignorance is never a defense when it comes to weapons laws, trust me!

Bottom Line

South Dakota has the best knife state laws I’ve seen, blemished only by their lack of preemption that has allowed several localities to implement their own varyingly onerous laws and regulations on the carry of knives.

Aside from that, you can pretty much carry whatever kind of knife you want however you want in South Dakota. Just take care to stay out of and away from courthouses, schools and capitol grounds and you should not have any issues.

1 thought on “South Dakota Knife Laws: What You Need to Know”

  1. Keep in mind besides Courthouse, Schools and Capital Grounds that knives are forbidden on VA Medical Center grounds and the Airbase in Rapid City (if blade is over three inches) if you are a visitor to the base.

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