South Dakota’s Vehicular Homicide Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and kills another person will likely face vehicular homicide charges.

South Dakota defines “vehicular homicide” as negligently causing the death of another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in violation of the state’s DUI laws.

Negligence.  A person acts in a negligent manner by failing to exercise the degree of caution that a prudent person would under like circumstances. In other words, the person—without realizing it—does or fails to do something that’s unreasonably dangerous.

Under the influence.  For purposes of the vehicular homicide law, “under the influence” means the motorist:

  • is impaired by drugs or alcohol, or
  • has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

Causation.  A driver can be convicted of vehicular homicide only if there’s proof that the driving was a legal cause of the death. It’s not enough to merely show the defendant drove negligently while under the influence and someone died—there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s negligence and the death.

(S.D. Codified Laws § § 22-1-2, 22-16-41 (2017); State v. Two Bulls, 547 N.W.2d 764 (1996).)

Vehicular Homicide Penalties

Vehicular homicide is a class 3 felony in South Dakota. Convicted motorists face up to 15 years in prison and a maximum $30,000 in fines. A vehicular homicide conviction also leads to a license revocation of at least ten years.

(S.D. Codified Laws § 22-6-1 (2017).)


Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your  jurisdiction  will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney

Vehicular homicide is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. If you’ve been arrested for vehicular homicide—or any other crime—get in contact with a criminal defense attorney right away. The facts of every case are different. An experienced defense attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best plan of action.  

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