Instant Accessto State, County and Municipal Public Records

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ALERT provides access to CRIMINAL, PUBLIC, and VITAL RECORDS (arrest records, warrants, felonies, misdemeanors, sexual offenses, mugshots, criminal driving violations, convictions, jail records, legal judgments, and more) aggregated from a variety of sources, such as county sheriff's offices, police departments, courthouses, incarceration facilities, and municipal, county and other public and private sources. is a privately owned, independently run resource for government-generated public records. It is not operated by, affiliated or associated with any state, local or federal government or agency. is not a consumer reporting agency as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") and should not be used to determine an individual's eligibility for personal credit or employment, tenant screening or to assess risk associated with a business transaction. You understand and agree that you may not use information provided by for any unlawful purpose, such as stalking or harassing others, and including for any purpose under the FCRA.

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Are South Dakota Records Public?

South Dakota public records consist of government-generated records open to all state residents and non-residents. The South Dakota Freedom of Information Act defines the process and types of public records accessible to the public. More so, it determines the roles and duties of custodian agencies for maintaining, storing, and producing public records. Under the SDCL Chapter 1-27, public records are defined as information and data belonging to the state, department, commission, bureau, council, board, any tax-supported district, city, or municipality in the state. Examples of public records in South Dakota are:

  • South Dakota court records
  • South Dakota arrest records
  • South Dakota divorce records
  • South Dakota death records
  • South Dakota inmate records
  • South Dakota birth records
  • South Dakota sex offender information

Per the South Dakota Sunshine law, public records may exist as typewritten or handwritten documents, such as notes, drafts, books, graphs, reports, and letters. In addition, maps, charters, blueprints, video files, symbols, music, emails, and SMS are classified as public records in South Dakota. The South Dakota Freedom of Information Act empowers interested public members to request and obtain copies of non-confidential public records from respective custodian agencies.

Note: Personal properties of custodian agencies are not classified as public records and are not accessible to public members.

Who Can Access South Dakota Public Records?

Under the South Dakota Freedom of Information Act, all state residents and non-residents can access South Dakota public records. Requesters can access, make copies, or inspect public records in the custody of government agencies. However, not all public records are accessible to the general public. The FOIA restricts and redacts portions or whole public documents containing sensitive information. For instance, the South Dakota Secretary of Correction exempts the following details from inmates and agents representing the inmates:

  • Correctional operations;
  • Department policies and procedures;
  • Inmate records.
  • Medical records and information on crime victims are also exempt from public access.

What is Exempted Under South Dakota Public Record Law?

The South Dakota Open Records Law prevents the disclosure of specific documents and files to the general public. Under this law, custodian agencies are responsible for withholding or redacting certain portions or whole documents. The following categories of information are exempt under the open records law:

State’s Executive Information

The SDCL §1-27-1.5(12) and (19) protects records such as memoranda, records of phone calls, correspondence of state officials and employees. Furthermore, the section protects their personal files and documents. However, this section does not cover documents or files used in deliberative or decisive processes.

Proprietary, Financial, and Commercial Information

The South Dakota Public Records Law exempts the following financial, proprietary, and commercial information from public view:

  • Valuable computer source codes, designs, drawings, or research created, authored, or developed by a custodian agency;
  • Financial data sent on behalf of an individual or entity to a custodian agency to qualify for a proposal or bid;
  • Commercial and financial data sent by persons or entities for export services;
  • Commercial or financial data sent by persons or entities as part of a loan application services;
  • Trade secrets and other proprietary data that is unique to a vendor’s product and services;
  • And mineral assessments, production records submitted by a mine operator or permit holder to a custodian agency.

Student Information

The exemption clause covers personal information on current, prospective, and former students by an educational institution in the custody of a government agency—20 U.S.C. § 1232g.

Personal Information

Other than birth and death records, medical records are exempt under the FOIA. The exemption prevents the disclosure of records of drug and alcohol testing, counseling, and treatments.

Personal identifying information, such as social security number, credit or debit card details, driver’s license number, passports sent to custodian agencies, are exempt from public disclosure.

The South Dakota public record law also prohibits public disclosure of personnel information. Moreover, contact details limited to an office address, emails, phone numbers, and salaries are available for public access.

Law Enforcement Investigative Files

Some law enforcement files are exempt under the FOIA. For example, the law prevents the release of files and materials that contain investigation techniques, examinations, informant identification, and citizens’ complaints. In addition, tactical information used in law enforcement training is exempt under the law.

Litigation Files of Settlement Agreements

Bankruptcy or investment litigation files involving the South Dakota Development Council are exempt under the FOIA. Also, medical services settlement agreements involving a municipal or county hospital are exempt from public view.

Information on Archaeological or Historical Sites and Collections

Under the FOIA, documents that reveal the location of historical, paleontological, or archaeological sites are exempt from public view. Nevertheless, custodian agencies can disclose this information for scholarly purposes and examination by recognized tribes and eligible bodies.

Where Can I Access Public Criminal Court Records in South Dakota?

Persons and entities can access public criminal court records in South Dakota by contacting the Clerk of the Court where the case occurred. Public criminal court records in South Dakota are accessible via phone calls, emails, and in-person requests to the clerk’s office. For instance, interested persons may obtain South Dakota public criminal court records by visiting the Supreme Court’s building at:

South Dakota Supreme Court
500 East Capitol Avenue
SD 57501-5070

Requesters must make an in-person request at the Supreme Court building within business hours. Next, requesters must pay $20 in a cash payment to the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court to obtain criminal court records. However, the clerk may charge $5 for a criminal court record if the request is according to a federal or state cause of action.

Likewise, interested persons can obtain copies of South Dakota public criminal court records via online access. The South Dakota Unified Judicial system website maintains an online database of all court records, including public criminal records. Record seekers must register an account and pay to access court records using the pay-as-you-go option to use the platform. The platform enables users to pay for search credits via the credit/debit card option. Every search costs $20 whether the information is available or not. In addition, name searches on the platform cost $4 per name.

Alternatively, record seekers may use the “search as a guest” option on the South Dakota Unified System. To access South Dakota public criminal court records via this option, record seekers must provide the following search information:

  • The case type;
  • The record subject last name and alias
  • Record subject’s date of birth;
  • Requester’s contact details, such as email and phone number;
  • Requester’s credit card information and billing information.

How Do I Find Public Records in South Dakota?

Record seekers may find public records in South Dakota by requesting the custodian agency responsible for issuing the public document. Although the mode of document retrieval differs for each record, record seekers may access public records via the following general steps:

  1. Know the Criteria for Obtaining the Preferred Public Record

    Identify the criteria for the preferred record. Some custodian agencies require record seekers to provide clear and concise search information before accessing public records. In addition, some custodian bodies may require a statement of purpose or a government-approved identification card. To obtain vital records like birth and death records, requesters may need to prove the relationship with the record subject.

  2. Contact the Custodian Agency in Charge of the Public Document

    Different custodian agencies maintain and provide access to a variety of South Dakota public records. Thus, record seekers must find the particular agency responsible for providing access to the preferred public document. In addition to this, record seekers must note the agency’s mode of giving access to records - some agencies maintain both online and offline access to South Dakota public records. Moreover, some public records are only available for inspection and may not be copied.

    Case in point, the South Dakota Department of Health (SDH) records and issues copies of vital records to only eligible persons. According to the SDH website, eligible persons include the record bearer, family members, designated agents, and authorized agents like physicians, legal representatives, and funeral directors. In addition, South Dakota vital records are not accessible for public inspection.

    Interested persons may access online copies of South Dakota court records via the South Dakota Unified Judicial System’s online platform. In contrast, to get offline copies of South Dakota court records, record seekers may visit the Clerk of the Court in the region where the case occurred. Similarly, the South Dakota Department of Correction provides a statewide database of all incarcerated and parole inmates via the Offender Locator. The Inmate Locator offers explicit instruction on how to do a public record search for inmate files.

  3. Create and Send Request for South Dakota Public Records

    South Dakota custodian bodies may provide online or offline requests form to requesters. For example, the South Dakota Unified Judicial System has a downloadable request form for obtaining court records at any Clerk of the Court’s office. Thus, requesters must select their preferred method of requesting public records.

    Not all custodian agencies provide request forms for obtaining records. Therefore, record seekers may use the generalized FOIA request form template. On the other hand, record seekers may write a letter requesting public records at any custodian agency or department. Note that a written request form must contain the following information:

  • The requester's full name
  • The record subject's date of birth;
  • The case number (this applies to court records);
  • Purpose of the request - provide a detailed description of your request;
  • Date range when the record was documented;
  • The record seeker’s full name and, or aliases;
  • Preferred mode of delivery;
  • Record seeker’s contact details;
  • Additional information to assist with the search.
  1. Using Third-Party Sites

    Some public records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These websites are not limited by geographic location and come with comprehensive search tools. Record seekers can use these sites to start a search for a specific record or multiple records. To use a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile

  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

    Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in South Dakota?

There is no fixed fee for obtaining public records in South Dakota due to the difference between public records and custodian agencies handling the document. The FOIA allows record custodians to charge fees in line with the cost of finding, sorting, and producing copies of public documents. According to 1-27-1.2. Fees for specialized service, record custodians, may also charge a public record fee by considering the cost of obtaining computer equipment and software used in maintaining the public document. Nevertheless, no fee is charged for the online transfer of any minutes of an open meeting conducted by a government agency or political subdivision.

How Do I Look Up Public Records in South Dakota?

Persons or entities asking where can I can search court records for free may get their answers via the following options:

In-person Inspection of South Dakota Public Records

Some record custodians enable interested persons to inspect records in person. For instance, law enforcement agencies may also allow record subjects and other eligible persons to view their records at the police department in charge of the document. In addition to this, public libraries may have computer terminals where record seekers can view certain South Dakota public records.

Requesting for Online Copies of South Dakota Public Records

South Dakota custodian agencies or departments may maintain online repositories of public records. Sometimes, record seekers can view and obtain copies of these online records for free. For example, South Dakota sex offender information is free and accessible to the public. The Office of the Attorney General - Division of Criminal Investigation is the record custodian for sex offender information in South Dakota. Via the sex offender registry, interested persons can sex offenders using the offender’s full name, aliases, address, and zip code. In addition to this, sex can obtain information on exonerated offenders and absconded offenders.

Likewise, members of the public can access inmate records for free. The South Dakota Department of Correction maintains an online database of all past and currently incarcerated inmates in South Dakota. To view South Dakota inmate records for free, public members must search the online platform using the inmate’s DOC#, first, and last name.

Do I Need to State My Purpose When Requesting Public Records in South Dakota?

In most cases, public members do not need a statement of purpose to request South Dakota public records. Also, the state does not restrict the use of public records. Nevertheless, any subscription list published under Section 1-27-1.11 may not be redistributed or resold. Violation of this statute is a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

What Happens if I’m Refused a Public Records Request?

Within 90 days of the request denial, requesters may commence a civil action by summons. Under South Dakota law, a public record is classified as denied if record custodians fail to reply to a public record request within ten business days. In addition, if a public record is denied, public officers must accompany the record denial with a written statement to support the record denial.

Alternatively, record seekers may file a written Notice of Review with the South Dakota Office of Hearing Examiners. Furthermore, record seekers must file the Notice of Review via certified or registered mail to the Office of Hearing Examiners. The Notice of Review must contain the following data:

  • The record seeker's name, address, and other contact details;
  • The public officer denying the request (input the name and business address);
  • Name and business address of the municipal corporation, agency, or department responsible for issuing the request denial;
  • A copy of the denial document issued by the public record officer;
  • A copy of the written request;
  • Additional information is required for filing a notice of review.

The Office of Hearing Examiners will send a copy of the notice of review to the concerned public record officer named in the document. In return, the public record officer denying the record may file a response to the Office of Hearing Examiners within ten business days. Upon receiving submissions from all concerned parties, the Office of Hearing Examiners will hold a hearing to decide the case outcome.

How to Remove Names From Public Records Search

Depending on the type of conviction, record type, and custodian agencies, record bearers can remove their names from public records via the following options:

  1. Sealing of Public Records for Minor Offenses

    South Dakota laws permit the automatic removal of an individual's name from public records if the person's highest charged offense is a Class 2 Misdemeanor or municipal ordinance violation after five years (§ 23A-3-34). In addition, the 2021 amendment of S.D. Codified Laws § 23A-3-34 states there must be no conviction with the five-year timeframe. Record custodians can view and utilize the record for conviction and arrest purposes despite the public record removal.

  2. Pardoned Conviction

    Under S.D. Codified Laws § 24-14-11, all public records relating to a pardoned person’s arrest, indictment, trial, and conviction, are sealed five years after the pardon. Therefore, persons acquitted by an executive official can seal their records five years after the acquittal.

Sealing of Non-conviction Records

South Dakota statutes enable arrest persons to expunge their records by filing a case with the court overseeing the crime the record bearer was arrested (§ 23A-3-27). The court will only seal the documents on the following conditions:

  • No accusatory instrument was filed after one year from the date of the arrest;
  • After an acquittal;
  • At least one year after a prosecution attorney dismissed the criminal case

Victims of sexual exploitation or human trafficking can petition the court to seal all records relating to their delinquency record. Furthermore, the court also seals juvenile records one year after the minor is released from the Department of Corrections or discharged from the court’s jurisdiction.

What is the Best Public Record Search Database

Government agencies and departments maintain the best public record search database since they are the primary custodian of all public records. For example, the South Dakota sex offender registry is the best public record search database for all sex offender information, including absconded offenders.

The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department is also an excellent resource for inmate records. Thus, record seekers can access inmate information by inputting the inmates’ names on the online platform. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office maintains an open and complete list of all past and current inmates via an online list. Likewise, Pennington County in South Dakota, alongside the Rapid City Police Department, maintains and issues copies of arrest reports, accident reports, and case reports. Interested persons can obtain these records in person at:

The Rapid City Police Department
300 Kansas City Street
Suite 101
Rapid City, SD 57701

On the other hand, Lincoln County’s Register of Deeds Office is responsible for documenting and issuing copies of vital records to eligible persons and entities.

How Long Does It Take to Obtain a South Dakota Public Record?

It takes at least ten business days to obtain public records from a record custodian in South Dakota. According to the South Dakota public record act, a record custodian must provide records within ten business days. To avoid a delay in obtaining records, record seekers must clearly describe the required data for the requested document. Most importantly, they must meet the record custodian’s requirements for obtaining public records.