Excessive Sentencing Project - South Dakota

Policies and rulings on lengthy imprisonment terms in South Dakota.

Return to the Map

  • The state has a sentencing enhancement statute that allows prosecutors to seek bump-up enhancements for prior felons charged with new felonies. 

State Constitution

Art. VI, § 23: Excessive bail shall not be required, excessive fines imposed, nor cruel punishments inflicted.

Sentencing Statutes

Sentence enhancements

South Dakota mandates that courts enhance the sentences of offenders with one or two prior felony convictions by elevating the class of the instant felony offense to the next more serious class. S.D. Codified Laws § 22-7-7. If the defendant has been convicted of three or more felony convictions that include at least one crime of violence, the instant felony must be enhanced to the sentence for a Class C felony. S.D. Codified Laws § 22-7-8. If the three prior felonies do not include a crime of violence, the enhancement cannot exceed the sentence for a Class C felony. S.D. Codified Laws § 22-7-9. 

Case Law


Courts cannot use crime-specific enhancements in tandem with habitual offender statutes to double-enhance a sentence. Carroll v. Solem, 424 N.W.2d 155 (S.D. 1988). However, under the state’s habitual offender statute, courts may use prior felonies that are unrelated in class to the instant crime to bump a sentence out of a discretionary range and into a mandatory range—even if the mandatory range was intended by the legislature to punish offenders who twice commit the same act. State v. Guthmiller, 667 N.W.2d 295 (S.D. 2003).


When conducting a proportionality review, the first step for the court is to determine whether the sentence appears grossly disproportionate by considering the conduct involved and any relevant past conduct. State v. Buchhold, 727 N.W.2d 816 (S.D. 2007). In the case of consecutive sentences, the proportionality analysis applies to the sentence for each individual conviction—not for the aggregate. Buchhold, 727 N.W.2d at 825.

If the court finds that the sentence appears grossly disproportionate, it must then conduct the three-part analysis set forth by the Supreme Court in Solem v. Helm [(i) the gravity of the offense and the harshness of the penalty; (ii) the sentences imposed on other criminals in the same jurisdiction, that is, whether more serious crimes are subject to the same penalty or to less serious penalties; and (iii) the sentences imposed for commission of the same crime in other jurisdictions] as well as other relevant factors, such as the effect upon society of the type of offense committed. State v. Bonner, 577 N.W.2d 575, 580 (S.D. 1998).

Severe Sentences 

Court upheld mandatory life without parole sentence for man convicted as a first-time pedophile; offender had prior drug convictions and was subject to sentencing enhancement statute that bumped him from a discretionary range into a mandatory sentence. Guthmiller, 667 N.W.2d 295.

Featured Products