South Dakota is noteworthy for its extremely sparse and spartan laws concerning self-defense.
The bottom line upfront is that South Dakota classifies homicide as “justifiable homicide” so long as the homicide occurs as a result of self-defense, and the force used in self-defense was used to prevent the homicide of the defender or from any felony being inflicted upon them, inflicted upon someone else or occurring in or on an occupied dwelling.
In an era of unprecedented litigation and extreme verbosity when it comes to “legalese”, South Dakota’s self-defense statutes and plainly worded stand-your-ground provision is beyond refreshing. Read on to get the details, such as they are.
What You Need to Know
- South Dakota classifies the lawful use of lethal force resulting in the death of an attacker as “justifiable homicide”.
- Homicide is justifiable when it results from an attempt to prevent the homicide of the defender, prevent the great bodily injury of the defender, or prevent any felony from being done to them or on or within any dwelling they are occupying.
- Homicide is also justifiable when used in defense of another person that the defender has a responsibility to protect from the same occurrences.
- Lethal force is not justifiable to protect property alone unless it falls under the auspices of defense of an occupied dwelling.
The law is very simple when it comes to self-defense in South Dakota, and shockingly simple even in regards to lethal force in self-defense. Regarding the use of lethal defensive force, South Dakota takes a roundabout way to justify it by calling it “justifiable homicide”.
Justifiable homicide occurs (to the assailant) when the force used by a citizen defending themselves or someone else from the threat of homicide or great bodily injury, or from the commission of any felony.
Homicide is also justifiable when it is used to prevent the commission of any felony on or in the defender’s occupied dwelling. For instance, forcibly entering an occupied home – a home invasion – would constitute a felony and would warrant lethal force on defense in response.
Regardless of the setting or circumstances, and so long as the person using force is in a place they have a right to be, and if the use of force on defense is warranted, a person has no obligation or duty to retreat at any time.
Lethal force may not be used in defense of property alone, unless the property in question is an occupied dwelling benign defended from the commission or imminent commission of a felony.
South Dakota’s self-defense laws are quite simple and succinct: lethal force may be used in defense of one’s self or someone else to protect them from the threat of homicide, great bodily harm or the commission of a felony.
Lethal force may also be used while defending an occupied dwelling from the commission of any felony.
Relevant South Dakota Use of Force Statutes
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;
(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;
(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;
(9) “Crime of violence,” any of the following crimes or an attempt to commit, or a conspiracy to commit, or a solicitation to commit any of the following crimes: murder, manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, riot, robbery, burglary in the first degree, arson, kidnapping, felony sexual contact as defined in § 22-22-7, felony child abuse as defined in § 26-10-1, or any other felony in the commission of which the perpetrator used force, or was armed with a dangerous weapon, or used any explosive or destructive device;
(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;
(28) “Occupied structure,” any structure:
(a) Which is the permanent or temporary habitation of any person, whether or not any person is actually present;
(b) Which at the time is specially adapted for the overnight accommodation of any person, whether or not any person is actually present; or
(c) In which at the time any person is present;
(35) “Property,” anything of value, including, but not limited to, motor vehicles, real estate, tangible and intangible personal property, contract rights, choses-in-action, and other interests in or claims to wealth, admission or transportation tickets, captured or domestic animals, food and drink, electric or other power, services, and signatures which purport to create, maintain, or extinguish any legal obligation;
(44A) “Serious bodily injury,” such injury as is grave and not trivial, and gives rise to apprehension of danger to life, health, or limb;
(49) “Structure,” any house, building, outbuilding, motor vehicle, watercraft, aircraft, railroad car, trailer, tent, or other edifice, vehicle or shelter, or any portion thereof;
22-1-4. Felony and misdemeanor distinguished.
Any crime is either a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony is a crime which is or may be punishable by imprisonment in the state penitentiary. Every other crime is a misdemeanor.
22-16-34. Justifiable homicide–Resisting attempted murder–Resisting felony on person or in dwelling house.
Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.
22-16-35. Justifiable homicide–Defense of person–Defense of other persons in household.
Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of such person, or of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant if there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony, or to do some great personal injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished.
22-18-4. Justifiable use of force to protect property–Use of deadly force–Duty to retreat.
Any person is justified in the use of force or violence against another person when the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s trespass on or other criminal interference with real property or personal property lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his or her immediate family or household or of a person whose property he or she has a legal right to protect. However, the person is justified in the use of deadly force only as provided in §§ 22-16-34 and 22-16-35. A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be.