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South Dakota First-Degree Murder

In South Dakota, homicide is defined as the killing of one human being (including an unborn child) by another. Criminal homicide in South Dakota is broken down into the following crimes: murder, manslaughter, excusable homicide, justifiable homicide, and vehicular homicide. The crime of murder is then subcategorized into first-degree murder and second-degree murder. This article provides a brief overview of South Dakota's first-degree murder law.

Code Section

South Dakota Code section 22-16-4: First Degree Murder

What's Prohibited?

Homicide is murder in the first degree if:
  • Committed without the authority of law and with a premeditated design to cause the death of the victim or of another human being (including an unborn child)
  • Committed by a person engaged in the commission (or attempted commission) of arson, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or the unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or explosive, or
  • Committed by a person engaged in the commission (or attempted commission) of arson, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping or the unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or explosive and who subsequently effects the death of any victim of such crime to prevent detection or prosecution of the crime

Definition of Premeditation

The term "premeditation design to effect the death" means an intention, purpose, or determination to kill or take the life of the person killed, distinctly formed in the mind of the perpetrator before committing the act that results in the victim's death. Premeditation may be formed instantly before committing the act.


Murder in the first degree is a Class A felony that punishable by death or life imprisonment and by a fine of up to $50,000.

What if the Killer was Intoxicated?

Being voluntarily intoxicated at the time of the killing does not mitigate the crime of first-degree murder in South Dakota.

Felony Murder

South Dakota's first-degree murder statute encompasses felony murder. Felony murder is a rule that applies to cases in which someone dies during or shortly after the commission of an inherently dangerous crime. Applicable crimes are usually felony offenses, but the crimes that apply for the felony murder rule are outlined in the state murder statute. Under the felony murder rule, there isn't a requirement that the offender intended to cause the victim's death.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding South Dakota's first-degree murder law contact a local criminal defense lawyer.

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