South Dakota

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At a Glance (as of 2013)

Percentage of state funding: 0%
Percentage of local funding: 91%
Percentage of alternative funding: 9% – assessment on criminal convictions
State commission: none
Branch of government: no statewide component


Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services

State statutes require government to pay public lawyers a ”reasonable and just compensation for his services.” South Dakota Unified Judicial System Policy 1-PJ-10, issued by the state supreme court, interprets this statute to ban all flat fee. In 2000, the Court set public counsel compensation hourly rates at $67 per hour and mandated that “court-appointed attorney fees will increase annually in an amount equal to the cost of living increase that state employees receive each year from the legislature.”  In 2014, assigned counsel compensation in South Dakota stands at $84 per hour.


The State of South Dakota has no involvement in the oversight of indigent defense services and very limited involvement in the funding of the right to counsel. The vast majority of South Dakota’s counties rely on private attorneys for indigent defense services, with only three counties electing the public defender model [in Lawrence County (Spearfish), Minnehaha County (Sioux Falls), and Pennington County (Rapid City)].

In 1982, the legislature established a court appointed attorney and public defender fund in the Office of the State Treasurer. Historically, no state general fund appropriation goes to the public defense fund. Rather, every conviction of an indigent defendant in South Dakota results in the uniform assessment of court-appointed attorney fees at a set rate of $84.00 per hour. The recoupment fee is made a condition of the sentence, meaning that if a defendant is unable to pay, a warrant is issued for his arrest. All moneys in the fund is distributed annually on a pro rata basis to offset the counties’ indigent defense costs. This is basically a math problem whereby the Office of the State Treasurer reviews the expenditures from all 66 South Dakota counties and divvies up whatever little money is in the fund by the same ratio as the overall county by county indigent defense expenditures.

Statutory Authority

SDCL 23A-40-6 through 23A-40-20.  Additionally, the policy on assigned counsel compensation rates is in Unified Judicial System Policy 1-PJ-10.

Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff.