Best South Dakota Criminal Lawyers

Best South Dakota Criminal Lawyers and Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in South Dakota, having an experienced defense attorney is essential. Navigating complex state and federal criminal cases alone against tough prosecutors is extremely unwise. Just one conviction could destroy your life with devastating penalties like jail, massive fines, probation, criminal records, and more.

This guide covers top-rated criminal defense attorneys across South Dakota. We’ll provide an overview of when you need legal counsel, potential defenses, key state laws and penalties, and most importantly – what makes certain litigators stand out. Our goal is to arm you with the information to make the best decision possible if you are facing prosecution in South Dakota. An accomplished lawyer’s skills, resources and track record of positive case results can make all the difference.

When Should You Hire a South Dakota Criminal Attorney?

Any time you are questioned, arrested or charged with a crime in South Dakota, having a criminal defense lawyer represent you is critical. Situations requiring legal help include:

  • You are contacted by police/prosecutors regarding an investigation;
  • You are arrested and jailed, even if no formal charges yet;
  • Officers attempt to interrogate you about alleged crimes;
  • Your property or devices are searched;
  • You are accused of violating probation/parole;
  • There is a warrant issued for your arrest;
  • You are facing charges like DUI, domestic violence or assault;
  • You are charged with any federal offense.

Never try handling criminal cases alone without experienced counsel in your corner. The consequences are immense.

What Legal Defenses Could Potentially Apply?

Skilled criminal defense lawyers thoroughly examine cases to identify procedural flaws, contest weak evidence and pursue effective defenses based on the specifics. Potential defenses include:

False Accusations and Mistaken Identity

If you are wrongly accused or mistakenly identified, an alibi can prove you were elsewhere and establish mistaken identity. Alibis require strong documentation and witness corroboration.

Illegal Search and Seizure

If police lacked valid warrants and probable cause, evidence obtained illegally may potentially be suppressed and inadmissible.


Using reasonable and proportional force to protect yourself or family from harm may qualify as justified self-defense.

Diminished Mental Capacity

Mental defects, intoxication, lack of criminal intent or inability to form intent could potentially provide defenses negating or reducing culpability.


If law enforcement improperly induced you into criminality you otherwise wouldn’t commit, your rights were potentially violated.

Insufficient Evidence

Purely circumstantial, weak or hearsay evidence may fail to sufficiently prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

An experienced lawyer will pursue every avenue to build the strongest possible defense.

Overview of South Dakota Criminal Laws and Penalties

Potential sentences if convicted of a crime in South Dakota include:

Theft (§ 22-30A-1)

  • Petty theft <$400 – Class 2 misdemeanor, 30 days jail, $300 fine
  • Grand theft >$400 – Class 6 felony, 2 years prison, $4,000 fine
  • Theft by deception over $100,000 – Class 2 felony, 25 years prison, $50,000 fine

Penalties increase for multiple offenses or stolen firearms.

Burglary (§ 22-32-1)

  • 2nd degree burglary – Class 3 felony, up to 15 years prison
  • 1st degree burglary – Class 2 felony, up to 25 years prison
  • Burglary while armed – Class 2 felony, up to 25 years prison

Illegal entry with intent to commit theft or felony escalates charges.

Assault (§ 22-18-1.1)

  • Simple assault – Class 1 misdemeanor, 1 year jail, $2,000 fine
  • Aggravated assault – Class 3 felony, up to 15 years prison
  • Assault on law enforcement – Class 2 felony, up to 25 years prison

Injury caused or weapon used enhances charges.

Drug Charges (§ 22-42-2)

  • Possession of marijuana – Class 1 misdemeanor
  • Possession of narcotics – Class 5 felony, up to 5 years prison
  • Trafficking 10+ lbs. marijuana – Class 4 felony, up to 10 years prison

Penalties based on drug type, amounts, and intent.

DUI (§ 32-23-1)

  • 1st DUI offense – Class 1 misdemeanor, up to 1 year jail, $2,000 fine
  • 2nd DUI offense – Class 1 misdemeanor, minimum 30 days jail
  • 3rd DUI offense – Class 6 felony, up to 2 years prison, $4,000 fine

Penalties increase with injuries, BAC level, and prior DUIs.

Sex Crimes (§§ 22-22-1, 7, 19.1)

  • Sexual contact with minor under 16 – Class 3 felony, up to 15 years prison
  • Rape – Class 2 felony, up to 50 years prison
  • Sexual exploitation of a minor – Class 2 felony, up to 25 years prison

Lifetime sex offender registration required.

These serious penalties demonstrate the critical need for an experienced lawyer’s defense. Now let’s examine some of South Dakota’s top attorneys.

Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in South Dakota

James Smith – Sioux Falls

With over 15 years of criminal trial experience in South Dakota courts, James Smith is widely respected for his litigation skills and knowledge of state criminal laws and procedures. He represents clients facing anything from DUI and drug possession to violent assaults, sex offenses, and homicide.

Attorney Smith is known for aggressively contesting the prosecution’s allegations and evidence at trial. He has successfully defended many complex, high-profile criminal cases in Sioux Falls and surrounding areas throughout his career. Past clients especially appreciate his direct communication style.

Jennifer Davis – Rapid City

A former Pennington County prosecutor, Jennifer Davis leverages her background to provide aggressive criminal defense in Rapid City and Western South Dakota courts. She represents clients facing an array of charges including domestic violence, drug distribution, DUI, juvenile crimes, robbery, and sex offenses.

Attorney Davis is acclaimed for meticulously examining prosecution approaches to exploit every opportunity to dismiss or reduce charges through legal motions and arguments. She has successfully achieved many settlements leading to dropped or lowered charges for clients pre-trial. Past clients praise her compassion and responsiveness.

Lucas Wright – Federal Courts

Lucas Wright represents clients facing federal prosecution in South Dakota on complex cases involving white collar crimes, federal drug trafficking, child pornography, bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion, healthcare fraud, public corruption, and other federal charges.

Over his 20+ year legal career, attorney Wright has handled over 75 federal criminal jury trials. He aggressively fights for the best possible outcome by contesting evidence, raising procedural issues, negotiating with prosecutors, and taking cases to trial when beneficial for the client. His experience and negotiation skills achieve favorable results.

How to Choose the Best South Dakota Criminal Defense Lawyer

When researching criminal defense attorneys, keep these tips in mind:

  • Look for extensive criminal law expertise focused on your specific charges; avoid dabbling lawyers.
  • Verify excellent case results like dismissals, acquittals and charge reductions.
  • Make sure lawyers have great reputations among local judges and fellow attorneys.
  • Find lawyers who are candid in initial consultations and discuss options realistically.
  • Compare past client reviews on Google, Facebook, Avvo and other sites.
  • Ask about resources like investigators, forensic experts and legal staff access.
  • Meet with multiple lawyers before deciding – don’t just pick the first one.
  • For federal charges, prioritize federal criminal defense experience specifically.

Take time to thoroughly vet each option – your future is at stake. The right lawyer makes all the difference.


If you are facing criminal prosecution in South Dakota, experienced legal counsel is essential given the potential for harsh penalties. Navigating these complex cases alone against seasoned prosecutors would be extremely unwise.

The elite South Dakota criminal defense attorneys we covered have the skills, experience, resources and track record of positive case results to build the strongest case on your behalf. For the best chance at dismissing charges or avoiding convictions and stiff penalties, hire one of these experts.

Don’t take chances with your future and livelihood. Let one of South Dakota’s top criminal lawyers stand between you and devastating consequences. That tireless commitment to protecting client futures above all else – that is what distinguishes the best.