The South Dakota Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: August 6, 2023

No matter if you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.

After receiving a South Dakota traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away?  Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.

Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?

You Got a Ticket. Now What?

Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.

It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.

You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.

Don’t Ignore a Ticket! I Did, and it Was Fine Until it Got Awkward (and Expensive)

You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.

You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?

Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight

Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?

The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with South Dakota attorney” and see how many results you get.

Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like

“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”

Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.

These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.

“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”

Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?

If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have…

“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”

The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:

Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.

But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…

You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request a mitigation hearing or a contested hearing.

A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.

A contested hearing is one you attend to try getting the conviction overturned.

Good luck. Hope you win.

(On the other hand, if you have a minute, you could fall down this rabbit hole to find the origins of what might be a remarkably apt quote in this situation).

As for a South Dakota Driver Safety Course…

Unlike in other parts of the country, South Dakota drivers cannot use defensive driving to dismiss a ticket or to reduce driving record points. However, the court may order you to do so anyway as a part of your sentencing.  If this is the case, the court will provide you specific instructions on how to complete the process.  This may include the course you must take, the date by which the course must be completed, and if you will be required to provide other documentation or payment of fines to the court.

A South Dakota Court may require defensive driving in hopes of preventing future violations.  A driving violation conviction will result in the addition of points to a driver’s record.  If the driver accumulates 15 points in one year or 22 points in two years, their license will be suspended.  Below is a list of violations and the points that will be added to a driver’s record as a result:

Taking a South Dakota Driver Safety Course Might Still be Good for Your Wallet

Most major insurance companies offer some type of “safe driver discount” for policyholders who voluntarily complete a driver safety course, especially if it results in a reduction of driving record points. Insurance companies understand that better-educated drivers make safer drivers and that safer drivers have fewer accidents. With fewer claims to pay, the companies save money and will pass those savings back to you.

Check with your insurance company to see if this is an option for you. If you’re curious how much the savings might be worth, this article dives a little into the actual math.

What to Expect from a South Dakota Driver Safety  Course

If your insurance company does have a safe driver discount you can qualify for, they can tell you what courses they will accept. Generally speaking, insurance companies accept courses delivered in person or online. For many drivers, the online version is the one that makes the most sense.  With busy schedules, it is a great advantage to take a course on any day and at any time.  The ability to log in and out as often as you like, breaking the course into shorter segments, is another great advantage to taking a course over the internet.

All driver safety courses follow the same basic curriculum. Your course will touch on topics such as:

At the end of the course, you will be required to pass a test over the presented material to be awarded a completion certificate. This certificate of completion can then be submitted to your court, keeping the conviction and associated points off of your driving record.

If for no other reason, the review and refreshers provided by a defensive driving course may be enough to make it worth taking.  Over the years, it is amazing how many habits a driver can pick up, and not all of them good.  Walking out of the course with renewed driving perceptions, attitudes, and skills will help you make South Dakota a safer place to drive.

More Questions? We Have More Answers!

If this is your first South Dakota ticket or it’s been a while since your last one, you may have some questions. Here is some more useful information just in case.

How much is a speeding ticket in South Dakota?

That depends—Were you speeding or were you speeding?

Speeding fines in South Dakota break down like this:

Hope it was worth it trying to get wherever you were going five minutes sooner.

How long do you have to pay for a speeding ticket in South Dakota?

Even if you don’t have the cash to pay for your ticket, don’t wait to contact the court. You only have 15 days after getting your ticket to respond to the court.

Your court may work out a payment plan once you contact them. If you don’t, your fine might be assessed additional costly penalties or, in extreme cases, your license may be suspended.

Does South Dakota have speed limits?

I’m not sure if the folks who Google this question have never been to South Dakota or just never bother looking for signs when they drive here. YES, South Dakota has speed limits. Generally speaking, here’s the breakdown according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol:

How long does a speeding ticket stay on your record in South Dakota?

Points from most minor moving violations remain on a South Dakota driving record for five years. Major offenses (including drug or alcohol-related ones) can remain on a record for 55 years!

You can check the status of your license for free on the Department of Public Safety Website.