Drug Court

Drug treatment courts are specialized dockets designed to target criminal defendants and offenders who have alcohol or other drug dependency problems.


The first Drug Court was established in South Dakota in 2007. It started as a small court of 6 participants in the Northern Hills of South Dakota. The program expanded to include Rapid City and now has to a capacity of 60. The first DUI Court was established in Hughes and Stanley County in 2009 as a means to address addicted offenders with felony driving under the influence convictions. Soon after, in 2010, Sioux Falls Drug Court began operation. In 2015, there will be 12 specialty Courts in South Dakota, including 5 DUI and 7 Drug Courts. As a result of the success of the early specialty courts, the Courts and the community of Watertown established the State's first Veteran's Treatment Court in 2013. A second Veterans Court is slated to begin operation in 2016 in Sioux Falls. (Contact information)

All South Dakota Drug and DUI Treatment Courts are post-plea and designed to help those battling with addiction and their related criminal offense. The Drug Court model recognizes that changing addictive behavior requires constant vigilance, motivation, reinforcement and treatment to prevent relapse and promote change. All programs operate with a team of agencies working together for service integration and collective treatment planning within individual communities.

Goals of the Drug Court:

  • Reduce substance abuse and recidivism among targeted offenders
  • Increase public safety by integrating the criminal justice system with treatment systems and community resources
  • Reduce reliance upon incarceration as a means of dealing with substance abuse issues
  • Increase the number of offenders able to work, parent, and participate in the community

Traditional Court vs. Drug Court

  1. Limited court interaction v. extensive court appearances before judge
  2. Standard probation for extended period v. intensive probation until graduation
  3. Punishment v. incentives and sanctions
  4. Limited required treatment v. structured, supervised evidence-based treatment
  5. One court service officer for supervision v. team of diverse individuals for management
  6. Periodic drug tests v. Many random drugs tests for entire program
  7. Standard rules of probation v. standard rules and many special conditions
  8. Preventing crime v. preventing crime and managing the disease of addiction

Who is eligible to apply to Drug Court?

South Dakota Drug Court Programs will follow the subsequent criteria when determining eligibility for participants:
  1. Provide services only for felony offenders over the age of eighteen;
  2. Only accept candidates that are willing to participate in the drug court program on a voluntary basis;
  3. Exclude any person seeking to enter drug court based on a present conviction for the distribution of a controlled substance or marijuana;
  4. Exclude any person currently required to register as a sex offender;
  5. Exclude any candidate that has a violent offense conviction as defined by SDCL § 22-1-2(9);
  6. Target offenders that have fewer than seven lifetime convictions for driving under the influence unless otherwise determined appropriate by the local drug court team;
  7. Target offenders for admission who have been assessed for eligibility using a validated risk-needs assessment tool and a validated clinical assessment tool, who are addicted to illicit drugs or alcohol and are at substantial risk for reoffending or failing to complete a less intensive disposition, such as standard probation or pretrial supervision;
  8. Require that offenders pass a legal screening for entry into the drug court program conducted by the prosecutor with jurisdiction over the offense;
  9. Not exclude candidates from participation solely because of the existence of a co-occurring disorder or other medical condition;
  10. Adopt residency restrictions that allow for intensive supervision in that locality.

The Ten Key Components of Drug Court:

  • Key Component #1: Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.
  • Key Component #2: Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants' due process rights.
  • Key Component #3: Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the Drug Court program.
  • Key Component #4: Drug Courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol and other drug related treatment and rehabilitation services.
  • Key Component #5: Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.
  • Key Component #6: A coordinated strategy governs Drug Court responses to participant's compliance.
  • Key Component #7: Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential.
  • Key Component #8: Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.
  • Key component #9: Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective Drug Court planning, implementation, and operations.
  • Key Component #10: Forging partnerships among Drug Courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances Drug court effectiveness.

For Further Information:

Problem Solving Courts


Contact:  Noreen Plumage
Director of Problem Solving Courts
500 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre SD 57501