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Fight Traffic Ticket in South Dakota

Were you unfairly issued a traffic ticket in South Dakota? Do you have the means to prove your innocence?

If so, keep reading to find out how you can fight your ticket in court.

Plead Not Guilty to Your SD Ticket

To fight your traffic ticket, you'll need to plead “not guilty" to the court handling your case. Most SD courts require you to submit your plea in person on the arraignment date printed on your citation.

The type of charge you're facing will determine which court you need to submit a response to:

  • Misdemeanor: Magistrate court.
  • Felony: Circuit court.

Your traffic ticket will have detailed information about how AND where to plead not guilty. If you lost your ticket, take a look at our guide on misplaced citations in South Dakota.

Once your plea has been accepted, the court will assign you a date to return for a:

  • Dispositional conference if you're contesting misdemeanor charges.
  • Preliminary hearing if you're fighting felony charges.

Mark your calendar! If you miss ANY scheduled court appearances, you could face penalties like:

  • A warrant for your arrest.
  • Additional fines.
  • License suspension.

If you need to reschedule a court date or still have questions about fighting your ticket, contact the South Dakota circuit or magistrate court in charge of your case.

What Does It Mean to Plead Not Guilty?

When you plead “not guilty" to a traffic ticket in South Dakota, you're using your legal right to stand before a judge or jury and make a case for your innocence. You're also affirming that you:

  • Can devote the time to appearing in court, possibly more than once.
  • Understand that points could be added to your record as a result of a guilty verdict.
  • Know you could face imprisonment if convicted of a serious crime, like DUI or DWI.

If you're still debating whether or not to submit a plea of “not guilty," take a look at our When to Fight a Traffic Ticket page for more tips and information.

Fight Your Traffic Ticket in Court

When you fight your traffic ticket in court, generally you'll need to make the following court appearances:

  • Dispositional conference or preliminary hearing.
  • Trial before a judge or jury.
    • You may only request trial by jury if you're facing jail time for your traffic violations.

If you're charged with serious and/or multiple violations, consider hiring a traffic ticket attorney. Should you choose to represent yourself, you'll need to properly follow all procedures of South Dakota traffic court.

Some SD courts may appoint you counsel if you can prove the inability to afford a lawyer of your own.

Keep in mind, certain citations may not call for legal representation—check out our guide, When to Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer, to see if you're facing charges that'd benefit from having an attorney.

Dispositional Conference

If you're charged with a misdemeanor traffic violation (for example, reckless driving), you'll have the option of attending a dispositional conference. At the dispositional conference, you (or your attorney) will meet with the SD state prosecutor to try and negotiate a plea bargain.

Plea bargains usually require:

  • You change your plea to guilty.
  • A lighter sentence for your charges.

If you can agree on a plea bargain, you'll avoid going to trial. However, if a plea bargain can't be reached, the court will assign you a date to return for trial.

Bargaining for Higher Insurance Rates?

DID YOU KNOW: When you change your plea to guilty, your car insurance rates can increase significantly.

Be sure to check out our Traffic Tickets & Car Insurance page to get an idea of how traffic tickets can affect how much you pay for auto insurance.

Preliminary Hearing

If you've been charged with a felony traffic violation (for example, repeat DUI charges), you'll have the option of attending a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, a South Dakota circuit court judge decides if there's:

  • Enough evidence for the state to build a case against you.
  • Probable cause to believe you committed the violation.

If the judge finds the above terms to be true, a trial date will be set. Otherwise, your case will be dismissed.

Preliminary Hearing

If you've been charged with a felony traffic violation (for example, repeat DUI charges), you'll have the option of attending a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, a South Dakota circuit court judge decides if there's:

  • Enough evidence for the state to build a case against you.
  • Probable cause to believe you committed the violation.

If the judge finds the above terms to be true, a trial date will be set. Otherwise, your case will be dismissed.

Trial Before a Judge or Jury

When you go to trial before an SD judge or jury, the process in court will typically follow these steps:

  • The South Dakota state prosecutor and yourself (or your lawyer) make opening arguments.
  • Each side has the opportunity to present:
    • Evidence.
    • Witnesses.
  • Cross-examinations and/or rebuttals are conducted.
  • Both sides give closing arguments.
  • The judge or jury issues a verdict.

Filing an Appeal

If you'd like to try to appeal your conviction, the rules for doing so differ depending on your court and charges.

If you were tried in a:

  • Magistrate court for misdemeanor charges, you must file an appeal:
    • Within 10 days of conviction.
    • With the South Dakota circuit court in the county where you originally contested your ticket.
  • Circuit court for felony charges, you'll need to file an appeal:
    • Within 30 days of conviction.
    • With the SD Supreme Court.

For more information, contact the South Dakota court you'll be filing an appeal with.

Consequences of Fighting Your SD Ticket

The outcome of your traffic ticket case will determine whether the consequences of fighting your ticket have long-lasting positive OR negative effects on your life.

If You Lose

If convicted, your sentence could include any of the following penalties:

NOTE: If you hold a valid SD commercial driver's license (CDL), you MUST notify your employer of any non-parking traffic violations within 30 days of being convicted, by federal law. You are also required to notify the state licensing agency within 30 days of a conviction that occured outside the jurisdiction.

Be a Better Driver, Get Better Insurance Rates

Did a guilty verdict raise your auto insurance rates? Looking for a way to save some cash?

If so, take the time to enroll in a South Dakota defensive driving course—completing a course can make you eligible for discounted auto insurance!

If You Win

If you win your traffic case, you can look forward to the following:

  • No fines or penalties to deal with.
  • Dismissal of all charges.
  • No additional points on your record.
  • Insurance rates won't increase.

After receiving the results of your case, be sure to check on your SD driving record. Any inaccuracies can lead unnecessary stress, penalties, and fines in the future.

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