Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of one count of distributing a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below.The evidence at trial centered on the testimony of a confidential informant, who purchased methamphetamine from Defendant during a controlled drug buy. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the circuit court abused its discretion by allowing the informant to testify about other act evidence after finding that Defendant opened the door to such testimony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) even if the circuit court abused its discretion by overruling Defendant's general Rule 404(b) objection after defense counsel's question opened the door to further inquiry, the additional testimony was not prejudicial; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. View "State v. Nohava" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the sentencing court revoking Defendant's suspended sentence, holding that the sentencing court did not abuse its discretion.Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pled guilty to abuse or cruelty to a minor under seven years old. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to ten years' imprisonment, suspended on multiple conditions. The State later moved to revoke Defendant's suspended sentence on the grounds that she had violated a condition of her sentence. The court concluded that Defendant had violated a condition of her suspended sentence and sentenced her to ten years but suspended five years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sentencing court did not abuse its discretion in revoking the suspended sentence. View "State v. Kari" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of second-degree rape and simple assault, holding that the circuit court did not err when it denied Defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal on the second-degree rape charge.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant's conviction for second-degree rape because there was sufficient evidence of "force" as required under S.D. Codified Laws 22-22-1(2); (2) the circuit court did not commit plain error by allowing certain testimony; and (3) the representation provided by Defendant's trial counsel was not constitutionally deficient. View "State v. Townsend" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, robbery, and additional offenses, holding that the circuit court did not err in overruling Defendant's objection to the inclusion of a jury instruction regarding attempted robbery or by denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal and his motion to arrest judgment.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not err by denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal for second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter, holding that the convictions were supported by the evidence; and (2) the circuit court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to arrest judgment. View "State v. Frias" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of three felony drug offenses in connection with the sale of methamphetamine to a confidential informant, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial and that Defendant's sentence did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.After a two-day trial, Defendant was convicted of three drug-related offenses. Defendant was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for the possession and distribution counts, to run concurrently to each other and to the sentences he was serving, and to twenty-five years for the offense of distribution in a drug free zone, to run consecutively to his other sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to admit certain evidence proffered by Defendant; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial; and (3) Defendant's sentence was neither grossly disproportionate to his crimes nor cruel and unusual. View "State v. Shelton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's motion for order to show cause why Appellee was not in contempt of the circuit court's judgment and decree of divorce, holding that the circuit court erred when it found that Appellee was not in contempt of court because she was not personally served with the judgment.The circuit court found that Appellee did not comply with a court order but that she could not be found in contempt because she was not given proper notice of the order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the issue raised on appeal was not moot; and (2) the circuit court clearly erred when it found that Appellee was not in contempt of the order at issue because she did not have knowledge of the contents of the judgment and decree of divorce. View "Metzger v. Metzger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in connection with his plea of guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree manslaughter, holding that Defendant's sentence of life without parole was neither an abuse of discretion nor gross disproportionality.On appeal, Defendant challenged his sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by sentencing Defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole; and (2) the circuit court's sentence did not amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "State v. Klinetobe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for vehicular homicide and driving under the influence, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and that the circuit court's error in denying Defendant's motion to suppress was harmless.On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred when it denied her motion to suppress a statement that she made to law enforcement officers at the hospital and when it denied her motion for a judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court erred by denying Defendant's suppression motion, but the error was harmless given the overwhelming evidence against her; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to sustain Defendant's convictions. View "State v. Angle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court reversing the judgment of the Department of Public Safety ordering Appellee's commercial driving privileges to be disqualified for one year, holding that commercial driver's license (CDL) disqualification under S.D. Codified Laws 32-12A-36(4) applies when a vehicle is used as a means to possess a felony quantity of marijuana.The Department disqualified Appellee's commercial driving privileges for one year pursuant to 32-12A-36(4) because he had been convicted of a felony committed in a vehicle by a CDL holder. The circuit court reversed Appellee's CDL disqualification, holding that the statute requires that a vehicle was an "instrumentality" of the felony. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the Department's decision, holding (1) possession of a felony quantity of marijuana in a vehicle is "using a...vehicle in the commission of any felony" under section 13-21A-36(4); (2) the circuit court erred by holding that section 13-21A-36(4) was unconstitutionally vague; and (3) there was sufficient evidence to support the Department's disqualification of Appellee's CDL privileges. View "Ibrahim v. Department Of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage (DUI), holding that the circuit court erred in denying Defendant a preliminary hearing.The State charged Defendant with driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. Defendant moved for a preliminary hearing. The circuit court denied the motion. The State then filed a supplemental information alleging that Defendant had been convicted of two prior DUIs, thereby charging him with DUI third offense, a Class 6 felony. The plain language of S.D. Codified Laws 23A-4-3 entitles a defendant to a preliminary hearing if he is charged with an offense "punishable as a felony." The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that because Defendant faced a potential felony conviction he was entitled to a preliminary hearing. View "State v. Rus" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law