South Dakota Public Records

Want to learn more about the public records and your rights to access them in South Dakota? You’re in the right place!

Which Federal Laws Apply to Public Records in the United States of America?

President Lyndon Johnson passed the Freedom of Information Act in 1966. The law came into effect a year later in 1967 and applies to every public record held inside the United States of America. The FOIA says that people have the right to access these records from public agencies and government bodies.

There are nine exemptions within the Freedom of Information Act that limit access to certain parts or types of documents. The exemptions are as follows:

  1. Classified national defense information and foreign relations
  2. Internal agencies rules and practices
  3. Information prohibited from disclosure under another federal law
  4. Trade secrets
  5. Information regarding personal privacy or identifiable individual data (Privacy Act)
  6. Inter-agency communications that are exempt under legal privileges including attorney-client
  7. Information made by and/or for law enforcement if the disclosure of the documents would do one of the following:
    1. Negate someone’s right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication
    2. Invade personal privacy
    3. Interfere with law enforcement practices or processes
    4. Identify an anonymous source
    5. Leak techniques used by law enforcement for prosecutions or investigations
    6. Endanger the life or physical safety of an individual or group
  8. Geological data on wells
  9. Information about the supervision of financial institutions

Every state in the USA has made its own version of this act.

How Does South Dakota Define Public Records?

The South Dakota Sunshine Law, held within South Dakota Codified Laws Chapter 1-27 governs all public records in the state. It is a series of laws made to guarantee that the public has access to public records held by governmental bodies unless federal copyright law or other statutes limit the disclosure.

According to § 1-27-1.1, public records are defined as “all records and documents, regardless of the physical or digital form, belonging to this state, any county, political subdivision, tax district, agency, department, board, bureau, commission, council, committee, subunit, or municipality”.

Data considered to be a public record in its initial form keeps its public record status regardless of subsequent forms. Here, “tax district” refers to any business improvement zone created under Chapter 9-55 Business Improvement Districts of South Dakota Codified Laws.

Anybody can request access to public records in South Dakota without giving a statement of purpose — and agencies are not legally able to ask for one either.

As far as response times go, the South Dakota Sunshine Law does not enforce a maximum limit, although it is typically 10 days. Section 1-27-1 states that all government entities must make public records accessible during regular business hours.

If you are denied access to records, the public agency is obliged to tell you why. For those who do decide to appeal, the Office of Hearing Examiner will deal with your case.

Examples of South Dakota Public Records

In South Dakota, public records include but are not limited to the following document types:

  • Court
  • Arrest
  • Arrest warrants
  • Criminal
  • Business
  • Vital
  • Historical
  • Property and tax
  • Government contracts
  • Licensing

South Dakota Public Records Exemptions

Chapter 1-27 § 1-27-1.5 to § 1-27-1.10 of the South Dakota Codified Law sets out the records that are exempt from public disclosure.

A government agency or public entity can refuse to release the requested record based on the exemptions listed below. For more information on each exemption, refer to the specific code linked next to it:

  • Personal information in records about students, prospective students, or former students if they are held by a public entity. — § 1-27-1.5 (1) — This does not include information pertaining to Chapter 20 United States Code. 1232g.
  • Medical records (excluding births and deaths) including drug testing, alcohol testing, counseling, and treatment — § 1-27-1.5 (2)
  • Trade secrets — § 1-27-1.5 (3)
  • Attorney work that is subject to privileges recognized in Article V of Chapter 19-19§ 1-27-1.5 (4)
  • Information made/received by law enforcement and other entities with investigation or examination duties of people, businesses, or institutions — § 1-27-1.5 (5) — This only applies if the records contain one or more of the following:
    • Examination steps
    • Investigation parts
    • Intelligence information
    • Citizen inquiries
    • Citizen complaints
    • Informant identification
    • Tactical or strategic information used in the training of law enforcement
  • Appraisals and negotiation information relating to a purchase or sale of real or personal property by a public entity — § 1-27-1.5 (6)
  • Personnel information — § 1-27-1.5 (7) — This does not include salary or routine directory information.
  • Information relating to the protection of public or private property or persons while on or inside a public or private property — § 1-27-1.5 (8) — This includes the following only if disclosure would create a substantial danger to public safety, public property, communications networks, passwords, guard schedules, lock combinations, blueprints, or building plans:
    • Specific response plans
    • Unique vulnerability assessments
  • Security procedures, standards, plans, specifications, access lists, diagrams, and other security records of the Gaming Commission — § 1-27-1.5 (9) — The subsection cannot be used to withhold information relating to the amounts of prizes, the name of the prize winner, the county where the prize winner resides, and the amounts of paid persons.
  • Private citizen account payment information — § 1-27-1.5 (10)
  • Records held by a public library that would reveal the identity of a citizen using the library’s services or checking out a book — § 1-27-1.5 (11)
  • Communications, calendars, or appointment logs of public officials — § 1-27-1.5 (12)
  • Records that if disclosed would reveal the location, character, or owner of any historical, paleontological, or archaeological site in South Dakota — § 1-27-1.5 (13) — This subsection can only be used if disclosure would cause a reasonable risk of theft, trespass, or vandalism to the site. It must not be used to prevent scholarly research or for government use to protect recognized tribes.
  • Records containing information of the collections held by archeological, paleontological, or historical sites — § 1-27-1.5 (14)
  • Employment applications — § 1-27-1.5 (15)
  • Social security numbers, charge card numbers, debit card numbers, passport numbers, driver license numbers, and other personal identifying codes — § 1-27-1.5 (16)
  • Emergency or disaster response plans, safety audits, emergency personnel lists, or locations of weapons, ammunition, or biological agents — § 1-27-1.5 (17)
  • Test questions, scoring keys, or results — § 1-27-1.5 (18)
  • Personal memoranda, appointments, notes, or calendars of public officials or employees — § 1-27-1.5 (19)
  • Any document declared closed by contract, stipulation, or court order — § 1-27-1.5 (20)
  • Personal identifiers of those camping or lodging at facilities owned by the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks§ 1-27-1.5 (21)
  • Records that would constitute an unreasonable release of personally identifying information — § 1-27-1.5 (22)
  • Records that could endanger the life or safety of an individual — § 1-27-1.5 (23)
  • Internal agency records received by agencies that aren’t meant to be filed with the specific agency — § 1-27-1.5 (24) — This only applies if the record does not constitute factual tabulations, final instructions to staff that affect the public, or final statistics.
  • Records of individual juveniles committed to the Department of Corrections — § 1-27-1.5 (25) — This applies to those under Chapters 26-8B and 26-8C of South Dakota Codified Law.
  • Records relating to inmate disciplinary actions — § 1-27-1.5 (26) — This applies to those under § 1-15-20.
  • Other records declared closed by a different state or federal statute or under federal programs — § 1-27-1.5 (27)
  • Formula, drawings, computer code, research data, object code, and designs that would produce a public loss or private gain — § 1-27-1.6 (1)
  • Financial information provided by a person or corporation for qualifying to submit a bid — § 1-27-1.6 (2)
  • Financial information provided by private persons relating to exports — § 1-27-1.6 (3)
  • Financial information provided by businesses or individuals as part of an application for services, development loans, or other loans — § 1-27-1.6 (4)
  • Financial information supplied or developed by the State Investment Council or the Division of Investment — § 1-27-1.6 (5) — This only applies if the records relate to any of the following:
    • Investment strategies
    • Investment research
    • Potential investments
    • Existing investments
  • Proprietary data or trade information — § 1-27-1.6 (6) — This only applies if the information relates to any of the following:
    • Data unique to a product
    • Data unique to a specific service
    • Vendor’s specific methods of doing business
    • Procedures for determining prices or rates for services or products
  • Financial or proprietary information given alongside applications for funded scientific research, joining researching projects, or information relating to government testing — § 1-27-1.6 (7)
  • Mineral assessments, permit holder’s trade secrets, production records, or mine operator records — § 1-27-1.6 (8)
  • Drafts, memoranda, recommendations, or notes which contain information relating to the opinions or policies formulated or recommended to an agency or corporation — § 1-27-1.7
  • Records relevant to a controversy in which a public entity is involved in — § 1-27-1.8 — This only applies if the record disclosed would find its way into the hands of the opposing party.
  • Documents or communication records used for making decisions about an individual’s official duties — § 1-27-1.9 — Elected/appointed officials or employees have the right to retain information regarding their decisional or deliberative processes. However, if a record is already classed as a public document, it won’t be made confidential under this subsection.

Alongside these exemptions, you may find that any records you request under § 1-27-36 or § 1-27-37 have redacted portions. This only occurs if parts of the document threaten public safety, security, invade personal privacy, disrupt government operations, or disclose proprietary information. Just bear in mind that any redactions on the document will be considered a partial denial on paper.

Where Can You Get South Dakota Public Records?

While the South Dakota Bureau of Administration oversees all public records, you don’t always need to go through this entity when making a request.

Under § 1-27-35 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, you can make informal public records request to the custodian of the record. The custodian is the person or entity responsible for holding, maintaining, and updating the specific record. The agency then may provide you with the document.

If your informal request is partially or wholly denied by the record’s custodian, then you can make a written request under § 1-27-37 of the South Dakota Codified Laws. This must be sent to the public record officer of the public body involved.

Upon receiving your written record request, the public record officer must respond promptly. They have no more than 10 business days to do so. The public record officer can respond in one of three ways:

  1. Disclose the record.
  2. Deny the record request.
  3. Acknowledge receipt of the request and provide an estimate of the time required to respond properly.

In the case of additional time needed under 1-27-37 subsection 1c, the public record officer must clarify the reason for the extension. The reason must be directly related to the nature and scope of the request, and cannot be used to delay proceedings. Suitable reasons for an extension are as follows:

  • Locating and assembling the required information
  • Notifying third parties or agencies affected by the written request
  • Determining whether any information should be redacted or the whole request denied

If the written request is unclear, the public record officer may ask you to clarify your needs. If you do not provide this clarification within ten working days, your request will be withdrawn and the public record officer will cease working on your request.

At times, a public record officer will deny your entire request following exemptions listed in the previous section and found mostly under § 1-27-1.5. Along with the denial statement, the officer must provide you with a reason for the denial.

In the unusual case that a public record officer does not respond to your written request within ten working days or does not comply with § 1-27-37 (3), your request is automatically deemed denied.

If denial happens, you can start a civil action by summons or file a notice of review with the Office of Hearing Examiners within ninety days of the denial under § 1-27-38. The notice must be sent via certified or registered mail to the following address:

Office of Hearing Examiners
Foss Building
523 E. Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501

The notice must contain the following information:

  • Your contact information including name, address, and telephone number
  • Name and address (business) of the public record officer who denied the request
  • Name and address of the agency, municipal corporation, or other entity where the request was denied
  • Copy of the initial written request
  • Copy of the response received from the public record officer
  • Other information relating to the request that you would like considered

Are There Any Fees Associated With Making a Public Record Request in South Dakota?

Yes, there are fees associated with making a public record request in South Dakota. However, public agencies must follow strict guidelines when charging them.

For any informal request that may exceed over $50, the record’s custodian will give you an estimate of the cost before commencing the work under § 1-27-36. You must then confirm in writing whether you accept this cost and are willing to pay.

If you do not want to pay the fee, you have every right to pull out or exercise waive or reduction discretion. The waiver/reduction will be granted if it would be in the public interest.

The fee charged by the custodian of the record must not be more than the actual cost of reproduction or mailing/transmitting the records. However, if an informal record request will require over one hour of staff time, you might be subject to pay the actual cost of this time.

The State of South Dakota Bureau of Administration establishes the rules, calculating rates, and the maximum rates of copying and retrieving all public records.

If you aren’t happy with the fee you’ve been charged, you can appeal the decision under § 1-27-38. You must mail this appeal to the Office of Hearing Examiners.

Court Records in South Dakota

To better understand your rights to access court records in South Dakota, it’s important to become accustomed to the court structure itself.

The South Dakota State Constitution organizes all the courts in the state into a unified judicial system. There are two levels — the Supreme Court and the circuit courts. However, magistrate courts also exist under the supervision of the aforementioned circuit courts.

South Dakota Supreme Court

This is the highest court in the state. It contains a chief justice who is the head of the Unified Judicial System and four justices who are responsible for determining the final judicial authority. Each justice here comes from each of the five geographical appointment districts in the state.

South Dakota Circuit Court

Circuit courts are where most criminal proceedings and litigations take place. There are seven judicial circuit courts in the state and the judges are elected by residents of the corresponding circuits. If, however, there is a vacancy, the Governor selects a replacement from a predefined nominee list.

The circuits and contact information can be found in the table below:

CircuitGeneral InformationCountiesAddressMore Contact Information

First Judicial Circuit 6 circuit court judges, 2 magistrate judges, and a court clerk magistrate Aurora, Douglas, Bon Homme, Hanson, Hutchinson, Brule, Buffalo, Charles Mix, Clay, Davison, Union, McCook, Turner, and Yankton Yankton County Courthouse and Safety Center
410 Walnut Street
Yankton, SD
Click here
Second Judicial Circuit Largest South Dakota judicial circuit by population (241,787 residents) Lincoln and Minnehaha Lincoln and Minnehaha Counties
425 N. Dakota Avenue
Sioux Falls,
SD 57104
Click here
Third Judicial Circuit 14 counties, 6 circuit court judges, and 2 magistrate judges Beadle, Brookings, Clark, Codington, Deuel, Grant, Hamlin, Hand, Jerauld, Kingsbury, Miner, Lake, Moody, and Sanborn Brookings County Courthouse
314 6th Avenue
Brookings, SD
Click here
Fourth Judicial Circuit 4 circuit court judges, 2 magistrate judges, 1 court clerk magistrate in each county Butte, Lawrence, Meade, Perkins, Corson, Harding, Dewey, and Ziebach Meade County Courthouse
1425 Sherman Street
Sturgis, SD
Click here
Fifth Judicial Circuit 3 circuit court judges, 1 circuit court administrator, 1 presiding circuit judge Brown, Campbell, Day, Faulk, Edmunds, McPherson, Roberts, Marshall, Walworth, and Spink email: 5thcircuit@ujs.state.sd.us Click here
Sixth Judicial Circuit 4 circuit court judges, 1 magistrate judge, 1 chief court services officer Lyman, Jones, Stanley, Haakon, Jackson, Mellette, Todd, Tripp, Gregory, and Bennett 104 E. Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
Click here
Seventh Judicial Circuit 7 circuit court judges, 1 magistrate court judge, 4 counties Pennington, Custar, Fall River, and Oglala Lakota Pennington County Courthouse
315 St. Joseph Street
Rapid City, SD 57709
Click here

Alongside the main courts, there are specialty courts in South Dakota such as the Small Claims Court, Drug Treatment Courts, Veterans Treatment Courts, and other Problem Solving Courts.

Are Court Records Public Information in South Dakota?

Yes, you can access court records in South Dakota as a member of the public. You don’t need to state your purpose for accessing them. However, you won’t be able to access court records containing information on sealed or expunged cases.

Furthermore, there are thresholds restricting access to court documents of a certain age. You will be able to access the following court records:

  • Court documents containing information on criminal cases from 1989 to the present day.
  • Court documents containing information on civil cases from 2003 to the present day.
  • Court documents containing information on civil money judgments from April 19, 2003, to the present day

Records held by the courts can be filled with legal jargon and be hard to read. But, you’ll find a plethora of information including:

  • Case files
  • Judgment documentation
  • Witness statements
  • Jury files
  • Court minutes
  • Dockets
  • Court orders

Where Can You Get Copies of Court Records in South Dakota?

South Dakota has set up an online database that allows you to access court and other records. The Public Action Records Search (or PARS) gives you instant access to court records.

If you are looking for court records containing civil money judgments, you will need to use the South Dakota Unified Judicial System Online Judgment Query System. You have to be a registered user in order to make a search but it’s relatively easy to set up an account. Just contact the State Court Administrator’s Office.

Regardless of the search system you use, all your information will be kept confidential. Plus, you will never be charged to sign up.

Alternatively, you can obtain court records by using the South Dakota Court Records Email. Just fill in the application form and email it directly.

Criminal Records

The South Dakota Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation oversees all criminal records in the state. The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation Identification Department is responsible for helping you access these criminal records and keeping the Computerized Criminal History (CCH) database up to date.

All law enforcement and prosecution agencies are required to report the data to this department to ensure accurate information is given at all times.

How to Search for Criminal History Records in South Dakota

You can use the state’s Computerized Criminal History system for locating criminal records in South Dakota under SDCL § 23-5-1 and SDCL § 23-5-4. Using this database allows you to access penitentiary entries, follow-up criminal information, misdemeanors, and felonies. South Dakota is a closed records state so you can’t generally access criminal history information.

This system can be utilized to run background searches for employment purposes. It is 100% fingerprint-based so you must request a free fingerprint kit by calling 605-773-3331. For your criminal history search request to be granted, you must do the following:

  • Complete the fingerprint card
  • Include the applicant’s name, date of birth, social security number, and gender
  • Sign the waiver given by the Office of the Attorney General
  • Take the completed fingerprint card to your local law enforcement agency
  • Pay the $26.75 search fee by check or money order

How Long Does a Criminal History Record Check Take in South Dakota?

The Office of the Attorney General Division of Criminal Investigation takes roughly five days to send you the results. This does not include mail time so you may have to wait longer.

How Long Does Arrest Information Stay On a Record?

In South Dakota, adult arrests where you were never convicted can be expunged. To begin the process, you have to file a petition in court. It is up to the judge as to whether he or she is willing to accept your petition.

Generally speaking, if you were acquitted, the record should be expunged immediately. Additionally, if no charges were filed or the case was dropped, you can have the arrest expunged one year from the date of the arrest.

If you were convicted following an arrest, it will be automatically removed from your record under South Dakota Codified Laws § 23A-3-34 after ten years. This typically only applies if the conviction was a minor misdemeanor or petty offense.

Can You Challenge Your Criminal History Record Information in South Dakota?

If you believe there is a mistake in your criminal history record information — i.e. if there are duplicate entries, it’s incomplete, or is entirely incorrect — you can contact your local South Dakota Police Department law enforcement office.

Alternatively, you can go straight to the Federal Bureau of Investigations to challenge the information. However, it’s advised to start at your local sheriff’s office.

You might be able to get a criminal offense expunged or sealed. Expungement clears all records of prior criminal convictions but it isn’t available for all offenses. Sealing, on the other hand, ensures that the record remains entirely confidential.

The following crimes will not be expunged from your record:

  • Sexual battery
  • Motor vehicle violations
  • Driver’s license violations
  • Rape
  • Violent 1st-degree misdemeanors
  • Domestic violence
  • Violent 2nd-degree misdemeanors
  • 1st-degree felonies
  • 2nd-degree felonies

Warrant Records in South Dakota

The public is granted access to warrant records in South Dakota. You can use the South Dakota Record Search Program to do find any outstanding warrants for yourself or somebody else.

How to Search for Warrant Records in South Dakota

The South Dakota Record Search Program linked above offers a state-wide warrant search. You can also search for the most wanted adults in the state by using the South Dakota Department of Corrections Most Wanted Database. This includes inmates who have escaped or walked out of jail.

If you know the county where the individual lives, it is easier to contact the relevant county’s sheriff’s office and ask for all outstanding warrants.

Some counties even have web pages dedicated to providing the public with a list of all those with warrant records. Find the relevant county in the table below to find the right active warrant list:

County and LinkDescription

Bute arrant list by name, date of issue, and charges
Brookings Warrant list by name, age, number, date, and charges
Clay Warrant list including name, race, age, sex, bond, and charge
Custer Current warrants only
Fall River Warrant list by name, number, address, charge, and bond
Hand Active warrant listing, dispatch activity reports, traffic accident reports
Minnehaha Active warrants by name or city. Find most-wanted fugitives here
Pennington Active warrants by name, address, date, and charges. Find felony arrest warrants including photos, charges, and identifiers here
Union Warrant list including charges, names, and ages

What Is The Difference Between an Arrest Record and an Arrest Warrant?

An arrest record is a document that is created following an arrest or apprehension. An arrest warrant, on the other hand, is a document given to law enforcement by a judge or magistrate, permitting them to arrest one person of a suspected crime.

Depending on the case, the arrest warrant may also grant law enforcement permission to search and seize the person’s property.

Arrest Records in South Dakota

Take a look below at some South Dakota arrest statistics based on the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

  • The state has an above-average crime rate. It’s 9.7% higher than the United States of America average.
  • Rapid City has a violent crime rate 60% higher than the state’s average.
  • In 2018, 44,268 arrests were made. These were reported by 114 law enforcement entities throughout the state.
  • Out of the 44,268 arrests, 4,886 were under 18 years of age.
  • There are 419 sex offenders per 100,000 residents making South Dakota the 7th highest in the country.
  • The main cause of the arrests was drug abuse violations.

What Do Arrest Records Show in South Dakota?

Arrest records are documents produced by law enforcement agencies after an arrest has occurred. Generally speaking, it plays a key role in any trials that take place following the document creation.

They typically show the following information:

  • Any active warrants
  • Applicable drug or marijuana convictions
  • Any DUI convictions
  • Mugshots
  • Parole history
  • Probation history
  • Sex offender information if applicable

What Is The Difference Between an Arrest Record and a Criminal Record?

A criminal record is a much more thorough document that sets out the entirety of a person’s criminal history. This includes third-party complaints, arrests, warrants, convictions, and sometimes dropped cases.

An arrest record, on the other hand, is simply a document detailing the arrest or apprehension. It’s compiled by the law enforcement officer who made the arrest.

What Is a Public Arrest Record?

Regardless of whether you were convicted of a crime following your arrest, the record may still be available for public viewing following the trial.

What Shows Up on a Public Arrest Record?

In South Dakota, the following information can be found on a public arrest record:

  • The incident described in chronological order of the crime made by the arresting officer
  • Date of arrest
  • Location of arrest
  • Personal information including name, age, birthdate, address, social security number, and more
  • Photographs
  • Physical description including tattoos, scars, birthmarks, weight, height, hair color, gender, race, and other discernible features
  • Fingerprints
  • Criminal charges
  • Classification of the crime (i.e. whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony)
  • Bail
  • Court date
  • Any police interrogation details

Who Can Access Arrest Records in South Dakota?

Anyone can access arrest records in South Dakota since they fall under the public record category. They will show up on a routine background check.

Why Can’t You Access Arrest Records in South Dakota?

If the information contained within the arrest records relates to one of the nine FOIA exemptions or those listed in the South Dakota Codified Laws, you won’t be able to access them.

How to Search for Arrest Records in South Dakota

Even though South Dakota doesn’t have a criminal history information search system available to the general public, you can obtain a copy of your arrest records. Follow these steps:

  1. Get a fingerprint card from the DCI Identification Section by calling 605-773-3331.
  2. Fill out your fingerprint card.
  3. Sign the Authorization and Release Form.
  4. Prepare a check or money order to the Division of Criminal Investigation of $26.75.
  5. Send all of the documents including the check to this address:

Office of the Attorney General
Division of Criminal Investigation
1302 E. Highway 14, Suite 5, Pierre, SD 57501

Inmate Records in South Dakota

South Dakota contains six major prisons. The state penitentiary facility is situated in Sioux Falls. Currently, the state has over 3,800 inmates inside these establishments.

What Is On an Inmate Record?

You’ll find the following information on an inmate record:

  • Name and any aliases
  • Department of Corrections number
  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Current facility
  • Physical description including personal identifiers such as scars, birthmarks, and tattoos
  • Status
  • Parole office

Where Can You Find South Dakota Inmate Records?

You can use the South Dakota Department of Corrections online database to access inmate records. All you have to do to find the information is enter the last name, first name, and DOC number of the inmate you’re wishing to look up.

Vital Records in South Dakota

You can obtain death, birth, divorce, and marriage records from the various entities in South Dakota via the mail, online, over the phone, or in person. Using the online portal, VitalCheck is the easiest route to take.

Background Hawk - Team

Background Hawk - Team

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