In South Dakota, a person commits the crime of simple assault (a misdemeanor) by causing or attempting to cause injury to another person, or putting another person in fear of bodily harm. It is also a misdemeanor in South Dakota to commit battery (cause injury) against an unborn child or to cause another person to come into contact with bodily fluids.
Assaults and batteries that cause serious injuries or make the victim fear serious injury, assaults against law enforcement officers, assaults by defendants who have multiple prior convictions, and intentionally exposing a person to HIV are all felonies. For more information on these crimes, see South Dakota Aggravated Assault Laws.
In South Dakota, the crime of simple assault is committed by:
- intentionally or recklessly causing "bodily" (physical) injury to another
- negligently causing bodily injury with a dangerous weapon
- attempting to cause bodily injury (the defendant must have the actual ability to cause injury), or
- attempting to put another in fear of imminent bodily harm by threatening or menacing the person (the defendant need not have the actual ability to cause harm).
(S.D. Codified Laws § 22-18-1.)
Recklessness is consciously disregarding the risk that your conduct could cause injury to another. Negligence is the failure to pay attention to and consider the consequences of a your conduct when a reasonable person would have been more careful. (S.D. Codified Laws § 22-1-2.)
The question is whether a reasonable person would conclude that the defendant acted negligently or recklessly, which is more serious. For example, firing a gun into an inhabited area would probably be considered reckless; but firing a gun in the desert, and having the bad luck to hit the sole hiker who happened to be out there, would probably be considered only negligent.
Bodily injury and serious bodily injury
Generally, bodily injury includes cuts and bruises and other bodily impairments. In South Dakota, serious bodily injury is a significant injury that creates a fear of danger to life, health, and limb. (S.D. Codified Laws § 22-1-2.) Gunshot wounds and injuries that require hospitalization would likely be considered serious bodily injuries.
Under South Dakota’s laws, a dangerous weapon is any firearm, knife, or other object (animate or inanimate) designed to inflict or likely to inflict death or serious bodily injury. (S.D. Codified Laws § 22-1-2.) For example, a gun is a dangerous weapon, but so is a beer bottle if used to seriously hurt someone.
Battery of an Unborn Child
A person commits criminal battery of an unborn child by:
- assaulting a pregnant woman, and
- inflicting bodily injury on an unborn child, who is subsequently born alive.
The inducement of labor for medical reasons does not constitute bodily injury and, as a result, medical providers should not be prosecuted for battery if a baby is injured as a result of medically induced delivery.
(S.D. Codified Laws § 22-18-1.2.)
Causing Contact With Bodily Fluids
In South Dakota, laws were passed to protect correctional officers from being spit on (or worse) by prisoners; over time, protections were extended to the public at large. Specifically, it is a crime to throw, spit, or otherwise cause another person to come into contact with vomit, saliva, blood, semen, feces, or urine. It's a felony for a prisoner to cause a correctional officer to come into contact with bodily fluids, and it is a misdemeanor for anyone to:
- cause another person to come into contact
- with any bodily fluids or human waste
- with the intent to assault.
(S.D. Codified Laws § 22-18-26.1.)
Defenses to Assault
Under South Dakota’s laws, the use of force or violence is justified (not criminal) if used by:
- a state government officer or employee (or another person at the officer’s direction) carrying out a legal duty, and the force used is necessary to carry out the legal duty
- a person arresting a felon or delivering a felon to a law enforcement officer
- a person defending personal or real property, if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to prevent or defend against criminal activity
- a parent, guardian, teacher, or school employee to correct a child who has misbehaved, so long as the force is reasonable and moderate
- a vehicle’s driver to expel a passenger who has refused to obey any lawful regulation regarding a passenger’s conduct, so long as the vehicle is stopped and the force used is no more than that necessary to expel the passenger.
(S.D. Codified Laws §§ 22-18-2, 22-18-3, 22-18-4, 22-18-5, 22-18-6.)
Punishment for Assault and Battery
The first and second time a person is convicted of simple assault in South Dakota, it is punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Third and subsequent convictions for simple assault are punished as felonies.
Criminal battery on an unborn child and causing contact with bodily fluids are also Class 1 misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
(S.D. Codified Laws §§ 22-6-2, 22-18-1, 22-18-1.2, 22-18-26.1.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
If you are charged with assault or battery in South Dakota, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. A conviction for assault, causing contact with bodily fluids, or battery can result in jail time, a fine, and a criminal record. Or, you may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed, or obtain a not guilty verdict at trial, or receive a reduced sentence. An attorney can tell you how your case is likely to fare in court and help you prepare the best defense.