South Dakota Capital Punishment Laws

Capital punishment, more commonly referred to as the "death penalty," is reserved for the most serious murder charges. Under South Dakota law, the death penalty can only be imposed in cases where another person dies. For example, murder of a law enforcement or court official is considered a capital offense.

South Dakota capital punishment laws exempt those who are ruled insane or suffer from "a severe mental disorder or disability that significantly impaired his or her capacity to appreciate the nature, consequences, or wrongfulness of his or her conduct." The law also establishes a minimum age of 18 for executions.

Method of Execution

The law changed significantly in 1984 when the state of South Dakota made lethal injection the sole method of execution. Prior to that date, it was electrocution. From 1889 to 1915, the method of execution was by hanging.

Death Penalty And Clemency

Once the death penalty date has been set, the defendant may seek clemency from the governor. He or she has full and sole authority to grant clemency If clemency is denied -- and if any last-minute motions by the defendant, such as successor motions for appropriate relief, are unsuccessful -- the defendant will be executed by lethal injection.

Learn more about South Dakota's capital punishment laws in the following table. See FindLaw's Death Penalty section for additional articles.

Code Section 22-16-4; 23A-27A-1, et seq.
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? Yes
Clemency Process Governor may receive a non-binding recommendation of clemency from a board or advisory group. The Governor may also submit an application for clemency to the board of pardons and paroles for its recommendation. The Governor may, by executive order, delegate to the board the authority to consider applications for clemency and make recommendations to the Governor. The Governor is not bound to follow any recommendation returned by the board.
How is the Sentence Determined? Jury decides on aggravators; Judge decides sentence
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? No
Method Lethal Injection
Is Life Without Parole an Option? Yes
Minimum Age 18 years old
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity Sentence suspended during period of mental incompetency or while defendant is pregnant. In event of pregnancy, execution may be carried out not less than 30 days nor more than 90 days from date of new warrant from the governor appointing the execution; life sentence without parole if mentally retarded at time of crime and was mentally retarded before age 18.
Definition of Capital Homicide Prior felony convictions, class A/B felony/serious assaultive criminal convictions; knowingly created great risk of death to others; for the benefit of the defendant or another; for the purpose of receiving money or any other thing of monetary value; for remuneration or as agent/employee of another; members of criminal justice system (judge, attorneys) related to their exercise of duties; outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman; law officer, corrections employee, fireman while engaged in performance of official duties; offender escaped from lawful custody/confinement; avoiding lawful arrest of himself or another; in connection with distributing, manufacturing or dispensing illegal substances; testimony regarding impact of crime on victim's family; if victim is less than 13 years old.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a South Dakota criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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