What are South Dakota Public Records, and How are They Created?
According to the South Dakota public records law "all citizens of this state, and all other persons interested in the examination of the public records, as defined in § 1-27-1.1, are hereby fully empowered and authorized to examine such public record, and make memoranda and abstracts therefrom during the hours the respective offices are open for the ordinary transaction of business and, unless federal copyright law otherwise provides, obtain copies of public records in accordance with this chapter." Along with that, "Each government entity or elected or appointed government official shall, during normal business hours, make available to the public for inspection and copying in the manner set forth in this chapter all public records held by that entity or official."
Public records are created, stored, maintained, and shared by all different types of government bodies. A government body may include the local police station, the courts, a town clerk's office, the Secretary of State's office, the Department of Corrections, and other local and state offices that receive funding from South Dakota.
"Public records include all records and documents, regardless of physical form, of or belonging to this state, any county, municipality, political subdivision, or tax-supported district in this state, or any agency, branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, subunit, or committee of any of the foregoing. Data, which is a public record in its original form, remains a public record when maintained in any other form."
The South Dakota State Historical Society is the public agency in charge of historical public records for the state. They store many of their collections online, making it easy for you to search and review many different types of government documents. Their mission states: "The State Archives of the South Dakota State Historical Society collects, appraises, accessions, describes, organizes, preserves, determines significance, and makes available manuscript collections, South Dakota state, county, and town government records, photographs, maps, and other archival materials which have permanent historical and research value."
How to Access South Dakota Public Records?
South Carolina has a very liberal, open records law. However, there is no one agency in charge of handling records requests. You must contact each one separately and follow their rules to obtain copies. The general process is:
- Identify which agency has the records you need.
- Contact their records officer and file a formal request (in writing).
- Pay any applicable fees.
- Await their response.
If for some reason, your public records request is denied, South Dakota has a special government agency called the Office of Hearing Examiners who handles disputes and filing appeals. You can contact them directly for help.
Different Types of Public Records in South Dakota
South Dakota Criminal Records
South Dakota uses a unified justice system, and this often makes finding records easy since everything is consolidated under one roof. The state has set up a self-help search portal where you can search for records, and it includes criminal records going back to 1989. Civil cases go back to 2003. Unless the cases are sealed, they will be available online using this search tool. The tool is not free. However, you must set up an account and pay for an annual subscription to use it. Each search costs money as well. Other options for finding criminal records are contacting local police, searching court records, or contacting the Department of Corrections.
Some common types of criminal records in South Dakota include (but are not limited to):
- Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in South Dakota are second-degree petty theft, conducting an illegal lottery or bingo game, public indecency, misrepresenting the age of a minor, disorderly conduct, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Some common felonies include first-degree murder, rape, aggravated assault, manslaughter, and arson.
- South Dakota Jail and Inmate Records - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The South Dakota Department of Corrections has an online search tool you can use to locate criminals and their records.
- Police Records - local police can provide copies of incident reports, police reports, sometimes mugshots, and even crime scene photos upon request.
South Dakota Court Records
The South Dakota Unified Justice System is the government agency in charge of Court records in South Dakota. The state is very progressive, and all court cases are stored online for easy access and searching. Their website also allows you to pay fees and fines and e-file for court cases. They have special areas and resources for attorneys, jurors, and people performing research.
Some types of court records in South Dakota include:
- Civil Court Records - domestic relations cases such as divorces, marriages, paternity lawsuits, custody and child support cases, estates, conservatorships, wills, civil lawsuits, and small claims lawsuits.
- Criminal Court Records - criminal filings for misdemeanors, felonies, and other citations. These may include things like trial paperwork, sentencing, prison transfers, and evidence related to the court case.
- Financial Court Records - bankruptcies, liens, tax issues, company stock filings, and corporate financial reports.
- Other Court Records - such as bench warrants, arrest warrants, judgments, traffic tickets, and other traffic violations, worker's compensation cases, and name changes.
The court system in South Dakota consists of a simple three-level court system starting with the Supreme Court, the Circuit Court, and Magistrate Court.
South Dakota Arrest Records
South Dakota arrest records are handled by the Unified Justice System which links law enforcement to the courts. Therefore, you can use their online portal search tool to find information about recent arrests or any other criminal information you need. The only records not stored online are sealed records.
Some different types of arrests records in South Dakota are:
- Drug charges.
- Simple assault.
- Misrepresenting the age of a minor.
- Sexual abuse.
- Booking details like fingerprints and mugshots.
- Arrest warrants granted by a judge.
- Bench warrants for not appearing in court.
- Crime scene photos.
- Witness statements.
- Property crimes and accompanying paperwork.
- Vehicle records if one was used during the crime.
South Dakota Vital Records
The South Dakota Department of Health is the government agency that collects, maintains, preserves, and issues all vital records for the state. They manage births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages, and divorces. You can request certified copies online, in person, and through the mail. This agency also handles adoption information and amendments to incorrect vital records. They have special resources for genealogy researchers.
Other Public Records in South Dakota
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of South Dakota include, but are not limited to:
- Government budgets and annual reports.
- Driving records (without personally identifiable information).
- Home addresses.
- Maps, books, and tapes.
- State health and wellness statistics.
- Air and water quality (pollution reports).
- SD property records, real estate deals, and land deeds.
- Home phone numbers.
- Police and accident reports.
- Liens & tax issues.
- Company incorporation records.
- Library Research.
- Personnel records for state agencies.
- Permits, licenses, and certifications.
- Government employee salaries.
- * 911 time response logs.
- Grant applications.
- Contracts involving government agencies.
- Settlement agreements.
- Agency decisions.
- Name, title, and salary of public employees and officials.
What Information is Not Public Record in South Dakota?
In South Dakota, not all records are public. According to their Sunshine Laws, the following records are exempt from public consumption:
- "Personal information in records regarding any student, prospective student, or former student of any educational institution if such records are maintained by and in the possession of a public entity, other than routine directory information.
- Medical records, including all records of drug or alcohol testing, treatment, or counseling, other than records of births and deaths. This law in no way abrogates or changes existing state and federal law pertaining to birth and death records;
- Trade secrets, the specific details of bona fide research, applied research, or scholarly or creative artistic projects being conducted at a school, postsecondary institution or laboratory funded in whole or in part by the state, and other proprietary or commercial information which if released would infringe intellectual property rights, give advantage to business competitors, or serve no material public purpose;
- Records which consist of attorney work product or which are subject to any privilege recognized in article V of chapter 19-19;
- Records developed or received by law enforcement agencies and other public bodies charged with duties of investigation or examination of persons, institutions, or businesses, if the records constitute a part of the examination, investigation, intelligence information, citizen complaints or inquiries, informant identification, or strategic or tactical information used in law enforcement training.
- Appraisals or appraisal information and negotiation records concerning the purchase or sale, by a public body, of any interest in real or personal property.
- Personnel information other than salaries and routine directory information.
- Information solely pertaining to protection of the security of public or private property and persons on or within public or private property, such as specific, unique vulnerability assessments or specific, unique response plans, either of which is intended to prevent or mitigate criminal acts, emergency management or response, or public safety, the public disclosure of which would create a substantial likelihood of endangering public safety or property; computer or communications network schema, passwords, and user identification names; guard schedules; lock combinations; or any blueprints, building plans, or infrastructure records regarding any building or facility that expose or create vulnerability through disclosure of the location, configuration, or security of critical systems.
- The security standards, procedures, policies, plans, specifications, diagrams, access lists, and other security-related records of the Gaming Commission and those persons or entities with which the commission has entered into contractual relationships.
- Personally identified private citizen account payment information, credit information on others supplied in confidence, and customer lists.
- Records or portions of records kept by a publicly funded library which, when examined with or without other records, reveal the identity of any library patron using the library's materials or services.
- Correspondence, memoranda, calendars or logs of appointments, working papers, and records of telephone calls of public officials or employees."