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South Dakota

South Dakota

South Dakota earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime.

Innocent Owner Burden

Poor protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to the attorney general’s drug control fund, from which they are distributed to police for drug enforcement efforts.

The letter grade reflects the state’s forfeiture laws as of December 2020. When we become aware of relevant reforms, we are updating the standard of proof, innocent owner burden and financial incentive language above, but we are not updating the letter grade.

Recent Reforms

  • None.

Recommendations

  • End civil forfeiture
  • Direct all forfeiture proceeds to a non-law enforcement fund
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Adopt strong transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2001 and 2018, South Dakota law enforcement agencies forfeited nearly $21 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $1 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $22 million in forfeiture revenue. South Dakota ranks 1st for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. The state does not prevent state and local agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state forfeiture law.

At least $22 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year South Dakota Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $9,583 $0 $9,583
2001 $411,831 $105,550 $0 $517,381
2002 $687,090 $53,130 $0 $740,220
2003 $1,749,130 $122,365 $0 $1,871,495
2004 $1,130,057 $22,928 $1,000 $1,153,985
2005 $1,286,150 $48,750 $1,000 $1,335,900
2006 $1,807,310 $36,143 $0 $1,843,453
2007 $1,219,901 $42,765 $0 $1,262,666
2008 $620,295 $6,784 $0 $627,079
2009 $480,315 $197,094 $0 $677,409
2010 $535,239 $54,005 $0 $589,244
2011 $572,571 $199,087 $0 $771,658
2012 $2,241,744 $104,692 $0 $2,346,436
2013 $989,087 $16,036 $12,000 $1,017,123
2014 $1,689,102 $561 $42,000 $1,731,663
2015 $1,242,271 $166,977 $229,000 $1,638,248
2016 $1,300,954 Unavailable $80,000 $1,380,954
2017 $1,218,987 $10,077 $60,000 $1,289,064
2018 $1,588,466 Unavailable $14,000 $1,602,466
2019 Unavailable $2,423 $49,000 $51,423
Totals $20,770,500 $1,198,950 $488,000 $22,457,450

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

South Dakota's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

D+

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

C

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

D

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

Incomplete

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

No reporting requirements to enforce.

For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.

Forfeitures Under South Dakota Law: Key Facts

Median Value

$1,500

From 2015 to 2018, half of South Dakota’s currency forfeitures were worth less than $1,500.

Property Types

From 2001 to 2018, over half of South Dakota’s forfeitures were of currency.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

South Dakota does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.

Expenditures

From 2015 to 2018, the South Dakota Attorney General spent nearly $7 million from forfeiture funds—26% on personnel.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Property-level reports were obtained via public records request to the South Dakota Attorney General. Figures are in calendar years. Starting in July 2016, the AG ceased reporting forfeited property other than currency and vehicles. Fiscal year expenditures are from the AG’s website and represent the AG’s spending from the state’s Drug Control Fund. Other expenditures represented grants from the fund to other law enforcement. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Due to differences in reporting and accounting practices, state figures may not match aggregate numbers produced by the state or cover the same 12-month period as the federal data.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Preponderance of the evidence.

S.D. Codified Laws § 23A-49-13.

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

S.D. Codified Laws §§ 23A-49-4, -19.

Financial incentive: 100%. Forfeiture proceeds go to the attorney general’s “drug control fund” and are then distributed to law enforcement for drug enforcement efforts.

S.D. Codified Laws §§ 34-20B-64, 23A-49-20(2)(a).

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