South Dakota

Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System


South Dakota provides counsel to indigent youth through a county-based system that can include a public defender, contract attorneys, or privately appointed counsel. S.D. Codified Laws § 23A-40-7. If the county or municipality elects to have an office of a public defender, the public defender must represent any indigent youth arrested or detained for juvenile delinquency. S.D. Codified Laws § 7-16A-9.

South Dakota has no statutorily required or recommended training requirements or standards for attorneys representing youth in delinquency proceedings.

Court Rules

In addition to statutes and case law, juvenile court proceedings are governed by court rules. South Dakota does not have specific juvenile court rules at the statewide level, but S.D. Codified Laws § 26-7A-34(1) provides that juvenile adjudications are governed by the state’s Rules of Civil Procedure.

Right to Counsel

Beyond the right to counsel in juvenile court guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), states often have state constitution or statutory provisions further expanding upon on or delineating that right.

In South Dakota, youth in juvenile court have the right to counsel in delinquency proceedings and children in need of supervision (CHINS) proceedings. S.D. Codified Laws §§ 26-7A-30, 26-7A-44(2). The court must advise the child and the child’s parent, guardian or custodian of the right to counsel “at the first appearance of the parties before the court.” S.D. Codified Laws § 26-7A-30.

A youth is specifically entitled to counsel at the following stages:

Determination of Indigence

South Dakota has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings. A child or the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian can request counsel, which will be court-appointed with a showing of insufficient financial means, or if counsel is “necessary to protect the interests of the party.” S.D. Codified Laws § 26-7A-31.

The statutes imply that the parent or guardian is financially responsible for providing counsel for a youth in juvenile court because if the child has court-appointed counsel, a lien is placed upon the parents’ real and personal property “to repay funds paid by the county … or the state for the child,” unless the child is not adjudicated delinquent. S.D. Codified Laws § 26-7A-32.

Waiver of Counsel

South Dakota does not have a specific juvenile statute or rule addressing a youth’s waiver of counsel. Case law indicates that a youth can waive the right to counsel if it is knowing and intelligent and if the child is aware of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation. In re R.S.B., 498 N.W.2d 646 (S.D. 1993).

Detention Provisions

When and how the court may decide to detain a youth or otherwise place restrictions on the youth’s freedom is defined by statute and court rules. In South Dakota, a detention hearing must occur within 48 hours of the child being detained, excluding weekends and court holidays. S.D. Codified Laws § 26-7A-14. Provisions for the detention of youth are also found in S.D. Codified Laws §§ 26-7A-13.2, 26-7A-15, 26-7A-16, 26-7A-18, 26-7A-21, 26-7A-26, 26-8B-3, 26-8B-7, and 26-8C-3.

The U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court case law are also sources of due process rights beyond local and state statutes and provisions. NJDC’s Detention Page provides more information about detaining youth.

Post-Disposition Advocacy

The legal needs of youth in the delinquency system rarely end at disposition, and states vary in the way they provide a right to representation on these post-disposition issues. South Dakota statutes list one post-disposition proceeding at which youth have a right to counsel:

NJDC’s Post-Disposition Page has more information on this topic from a national perspective.

Ages of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

The age of a youth who comes within the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts is defined by state law. In South Dakota:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. South Dakota has three ways that juveniles can be prosecuted as adults:


NJDC conducts statewide assessments of access to counsel and the quality of juvenile defense representation in delinquency proceedings around the country. These assessments provide a state with baseline information about the nature and efficacy of its juvenile indigent defense structures, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the indigent juvenile defense system, and provide tailored recommendations that address each state’s distinctive characteristics to help decision-makers focus on key trouble spots and highlight best practices. The NJDC State Assessment Page provides more information about state assessments.

NJDC has not yet conducted an assessment of the juvenile indigent defense system in South Dakota. If you would like to collaborate with NJDC to fundraise for, plan, or engage in an assessment in this state, please contact us.


Current through June 2018.