South Dakota Alcohol Laws May Surprise You

South Dakota alcohol laws cover all those in the large state. That’s both residents and visitors. The state’s laws may vary from those in some other states. Laws can also vary from place to place within the state. Not knowing them is not a defense against breaking them.

I. Minimum Age Laws

I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice

People under 21 often want to work in hospitality. It offers many  jobs that young people can do. Most of these jobs involve alcohol. So what are the required ages needed for employment? This is an important matter for those involved.

South Dakota alcohol laws permit adults to serve alcohol in on-premises venues. That is, the age needed is 18. A supervisor must be present. For tending  bar it is the same age and supervisor requirement. For working in stores selling alcohol for off-site drinking, the age is 21 for selling wine and spirits. There is no state minimum age for selling beer in such locations. No supervisor is necessary for selling there.

south dakota alcohol lawsSouth Dakota alcohol laws let those of any age under 21 drink with a parent or spouse present. Many parents do this to de-mystefy alcohol and promote responsible drinking.

Buying alcohol under age 21 is illegal. So is using a false ID. Retailers may detain anyone under 21 suspected of using a false ID to buy alcohol

It is also illegal for those under 21 to drive if they have a BAC higher than 0.02.

The township of Shannon is dry. It prohibits the sale of alcohol.

II. Alcohol Violations

Alcohol Sales

In general, it’s only legal to sell alcohol to anyone age 21 or older. However, it’s legal to sell alcohol to adults aged 18-20. To do so, they must be in the presence of a parent, guardian, or spouse 21 or older. On the other hand it’s also legal to refuse to sell to such adults.

It’s also illegal to serve alcohol to any non-adult (i.e., aged 17 or under). This is true even if they’re with a parent, guardian, or spouse of legal age.

South Dakota alcohol laws prohibit those under 21 from loitering in businesses selling alcohol for on-site consumption.

By Licensees

south dakota alcohol lawsA licensee is one who has a license to sell or serve alcohol. Clerks are employees of licensees. The penalties for illegal sales by licensees and clerks differ.

The penalty for a licensee who sells or serves alcohol to a non-adult is simple. It’s imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of $1,000.

Illegally selling to an adult between 18 and 21 occurs in the absence of a parent, guardian or spouse. The penalty is imprisonment up to 30 days and/or a $200 fine.

The licensee also receives punishment for a clerk who illegally sells. Some clerks have had a state-approved alcohol server program. Others have not.

First Violation. The state fines the licensee $500 if clerk had program. If not, the fine is $1,000.

Second Violation. For a second clerk violation in 24 months, fine is $1,000. If the clerk hasn’t had the program, the fine is $2,000.

Third violation. For a third clerk violation in 24 months, the state suspends the licensee’s license. It revokes it if another clerk violation occurs.

By Clerks

south dakota alcohol lawsA clerk who sells or serves alcohol to a non-adult faces a Class 1 misdemeanor. Also the state revokes the clerk’s driver’s license is revoked for 30 days to one year.

For selling or serving alcohol to an adult 18 through 20, the clerk faces a Class 2 misdemeanor. The state also revokes the clerk’s license for 60 days to one year.

Alcohol Purchases

south dakota alcohol lawsIt’s illegal for a non-adult (17 or younger) to buy alcohol. Also prohibited is an adult 18 through 20 buying unless with a parent, guardian, or spouse 21 or older. Violation is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

It’s illegal for anyone 21 or older to buy alcohol and give or resell it to someone under 21. The penalty is imprisonment for up to one year and/or a $1,000 fine.

It’s also illegal for anyone under age 21 to use a falsenID to buy or attempt to but alcohol. To do so is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

The penalty for a Class 2 misdemeanor is a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for 30 days. In addition, the state may suspend the driver’s license for 30 days to one year.


south dakota alcohol lawsIt’s illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. However, drivers can still be convicted of DUI if their BAC is 0.05% or higher. That’s if a judge decides that they couldn’t drive safely at that level.

On the other hand, many people develop a very high alcohol tolerance. This means that they can safely drive at 0.08 or even higher. Nevertheless, the law falsely defines them as impaired. As a result they are denied any defense and are penalized.

People under 21, including adults, can be convicted of DUI with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.

Significantly, people can be convicted of driving under the influence without driving. If impaired people are in physical control of a vehicle they can be convicted. For example, if they’re sleeping in the driver’s seat with the vehicle keys in their pocket.

DUI Penalties

The exact punishments for DUI vary depending on driving history including any previous DUI charges.

south dakota alcohol lawsFirst Offense. Driver’s license revoked for 30 days to one year. Restricted license for up to one year.

Second Offense. The state revokes the license for one year. The court determines the duration of a restricted license. The penalty for driving with a suspended license is a mandatory jail sentence of three days.

Third Offense. One-year license revocation with a restricted license at the court’s discretion. The state requires counseling and participation in the sobriety 24/7 program. Driving while the license is suspended requires mandatory jail sentence of 20 days.

Fourth Offense. This results in a two-year license revocation and participation in the sobriety 24/7 program. There is a mandatory jail term of 20 days for driving with a suspended license.

Fifth Offense. The penalties are the same as for a fourth offense except the license revocation is for three years.

The penalties for those under age 21 with a BAC of 0.02 or above are simple. For a first offense it’s a 30-day license revocation. A second brings a 180-day revocation. And a third results in a one-year license revocation.

DUI Testing

South Dakota law requires drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test if a law enforcement officer requests. People have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline. However, if the exercise their right, the state punishes them by suspending their license for up to one year.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t apply to refusing to do a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are very subjective and very unreliable. Lawyers strongly urge drivers to never take them. They say drivers should politely refuse. Learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.


south dakota alcohol lawsSouth Dakota alcohol laws prohibit operating a vessel while impaired. The state considers people to be boating under the influence (BUI) if

1. They have a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
2. They are under the influence of alcohol, a drug, and/or a combination of the two to a degree that they can’t safely operate the vessel.

South Dakota requires boaters to submit to a breathalyzer test if requested by a law enforcement officer. People can exercise their Constitutional right to decline. However, the state presents that fact in court as supposedly proof of guilt. The penalty for conviction is suspension of the boating license for one year.

III. Resources on South Dakota Alcohol Laws

IV. Seek Good Advice

South Dakota alcohol laws can be unclear. This is true of those in other states as well. What do the laws really mean? How do they apply? Knowing this takes legal training. Lawyers study it for years. A mistake could be bad. Don’t rely on this site. Nor on any other site.

south dakota alcohol lawsGet information and advice about alcohol laws in South Dakota from an expert. That’s a lawyer holding a license in the state. South Dakota is a big state. Understandably, alcohol attidedes and practices vary. Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to select a lawyer from your locale.