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Juvenile Court


This brochure is not intended to be comprehensive or to interpret all laws relating to juveniles. It is intended to be a short, informational statement of basic points that apply to juvenile cases.

In South Dakota, a “juvenile” is a person who is before the court for an alleged delinquent act committed prior to his/her 18th birthday.


1.All criminal cases against juveniles which involve a criminal penalty (except municipal hunting, fishing, boating, park, traffic offenses that are misdemeanors, or petty offenses);

2. All cases where a juvenile is a habitual truant from school; who has run away from home or is otherwise beyond the control of a parent, guardian, or other custodian; or whose behavior or condition is such as to endanger his or her own welfare or the welfare of others; and

3. All cases involving children who have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused or neglected.


In certain cases, the child may be transferred to circuit (adult) court. Also, some cases may start in circuit (adult) court and be transferred to juvenile court. A special hearing called a transfer hearing may be required to determine which is the appropriate court.

At that hearing, a judge would determine the best interests of the child and of the public regarding jurisdiction in juvenile court. Considerations include: seriousness of the offense; whether the offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or willful manner; whether the offense was against property or another person; whether adults were involved; the record and previous history of the child; the protection of the public; the likelihood of rehabilitation of the child; and the prosecutorial merit of the complaint.

A child who has been transferred to adult court may be held in the county jail if the child is 15, 16, or 17 and has committed a crime of violence or sexual contact as defined by law.


A pending divorce action of parents does not deprive the juvenile court of jurisdiction over delinquency, CHINS, or abuse and neglect cases.

CHINS means Child In Need of Supervision.

Guardianship law does not affect juvenile court jurisdiction.

Venue for juvenile cases is generally the county of residence of the juvenile, but may be in the county where the offense occurred.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies to an unmarried person under 18 who is (a) enrolled in an Indian tribe, or (b) are eligible to be enrolled and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe. The burden of proving that a child is Indian is the person asserting that ICWA applies. There may be concurrent or exclusive jurisdiction by the Tribal Court.

The circuit court has continuing jurisdiction over a juvenile unless the child is committed to custody of the Department of Corrections.

One of your rights is to consult with a lawyer. Depending on the case type, if you can’t afford an attorney, the judge might appoint one. You will have to fill out a financial form to make sure you qualify. The juvenile or parents may be required to reimburse the county for these costs.


All hearings in juvenile court are closed to the public unless the court finds compelling reasons to require otherwise. However, if a juvenile is 16 years of age or older and has committed a crime of violence as defined by law, or if certain drug offenses are charged, the hearings and pleadings (case file paperwork) are open to the public. Generally, though, victims of any act of juvenile delinquency may attend all hearings involving the juvenile.


Except for cases transferred to circuit (adult) court for criminal proceedings, juvenile records are not accessible to the public without a specific court order.

Juvenile records may not be used in later life for other purposes, such as disqualification from jury duty, but they may be reviewed as part of a presentence investigation (PSI) following any criminal conviction by that person as an adult.

Felonies or serious misdemeanors committed as a juvenile may result in rejection or a delay in enlistment in all branches of the military, including the National Guard.

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