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South Dakota Involuntary Manslaughter Law

In South Dakota, criminal homicide is classified according to the severity of the killing as either murder, manslaughter, excusable homicide, justifiable homicide, or vehicular homicide. The crime of manslaughter is then further subcategorized into voluntary manslaughter (referred to as manslaughter in the first degree) and involuntary manslaughter (referred to as manslaughter in the second degree). This article provides a brief overview of South Dakota's voluntary manslaughter law.

Code Section

South Dakota Code section 22-16-15: Manslaughter in First Degree

What's Prohibited?

Killing a human being (including an unborn child) if perpetrated:
  • Without any design to cause death, while engaging in the commission of any felony other than arson, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or unlawfully throwing, placing, or discharging a destructive device or explosive
  • Without any design to cause death, and in a heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner
  • Without any design to cause death, but by means of a dangerous weapon, or
  • Unnecessarily, either while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime or after such an attempt has failed


Manslaughter in the first degree is a Class C felony that is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and life in prison.
Lesser Included Offenses First degree manslaughter is a lesser included offense of first degree murder and second degree murder.

What's the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

While both murder and manslaughter require an unlawful killing, the key difference between the two crimes lies in the offender's state of mind when the killing was committed. Generally, murder requires the killing to have been done with malice (or the intent or desire to cause harm). On the other hand, manslaughter does not involve malice or premeditation. The law views offenders who commit manslaughter as less morally culpable than those who commit murder, and therefore the distinction between the two crimes is very significant went it comes to punishing the killer.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding South Dakota's voluntary manslaughter law contact a local criminal defense lawyer.

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