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South Dakota Eminent Domain Law

Few issues evoke such strong opposition as the taking of private land through eminent domain for a public use. When it comes to South Dakota eminent domain, the government is playing in their arena; they do this every day. They know what the rules are, they know how the rules affect them and they know how the rules affect property owners. If the government is taking your land, make sure that you become informed so that you know what you can and cannot do. Your initial question might be, can I stop the process? In most cases, you won’t be able to prevent the government from acquiring your land, but you are entitled to just compensation under South Dakota eminent domain law. Learn more about eminent domain generally and what you’re entitled to receive, or continue reading to learn about the South Dakota eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring a South Dakota eminent domain attorney.

We are an eminent domain law firm that only represents property owners, never the government or condemning authority. We have experience helping property owners who are impacted by highway and transit projects, pipeline projects, natural gas storage facility projects, redevelopment projects, acquisitions for municipal buildings, inverse condemnation, regulatory takings and much more. Did you know that most eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis? With this fee structure, the attorney assumes the risk of earning a fee. Also, the government or condemning authority is required to pay your attorneys fees in eminent domain cases if certain criteria are met.

Road in the Badlands, SD

South Dakota Eminent Domain Process

In the state of South Dakota, the eminent domain process can only be stopped if the proposed taking does not meet the requirements for public purpose or public necessity. If you have determined that the proposed taking does meet these requirements, then you should learn more about the South Dakota eminent domain process. Remember, even if the government has the right to condemn your property, they cannot dictate the price they are willing to pay; compensation is determined by the highest and best use laws for your property.

South Dakota Property Rights

The eminent domain abuse dialogue often centers on policy issues involving the right to take property for economic development and blight. Since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, many states have taken measures to help curb eminent domain abuse. Some states were very successful at passing meaningful reform, and other states failed to pass any legislation at all. Most states fall in the middle by passing legislation that looks good on paper but does little to level the playing field between property owners and the government.

Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership.  The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity.  While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.

The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws.  The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain. The Castle Coalition gave a letter grade of an A to the state of South Dakota for property rights.

In 2006, House Bill 1080 was passed in South Dakota, which proves significant reform and protection for property owners. House Bill 1080 passed by a landslide in the Senate, and effectively bans all governmental agencies from private property takings that solely serve the purpose of private party transfers. The bill also states that if condemned land is not used for the purpose in which it was taken within 7 years, the original owner may re-purchase the property, without having to pay the current market value.

Additionally, the state of South Dakota has a strict definition on the actual uses of property in an eminent domain proceeding, which leaves no room for loopholes in the state’s system for condemnation.

Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in South Dakota

The most blatant form of eminent domain abuse occurs when the government or condemning authority makes a ‘low ball’ offer. This scenario invariably requires the property owner to hire an attorney to obtain just compensation. Fortunately, the vast majority of eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they charge a percentage of the additional money they obtain for the property owner. Also, South Dakota has passed legislation requiring the condemning authority to pay your attorneys fees in eminent domain cases if certain criteria are met.

Attorney’s Fees Recoverable in Eminent Domain in South Dakota

If you’re a property owner impacted by eminent domain, your attorneys fees and costs may be paid for by the government or condemning authority if the proceeding is dismissed, or if the final judgment is at least 20 percent higher than the condemning authority’s final offer (S.D. Codified Laws § 21-35-23). The final offer by the condemning authority, however, must be greater than $700 for attorney’s fees to be awarded (S.D. Codified Laws § 21-35-23). The motivation to negotiate honestly, and even avoid low ball offers to begin with, increases significantly if the condemning authority can be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the property owner. This statute helps level the playing field between the government and property owners, especially when small claimants can hire an attorney to help them obtain just compensation. Very few attorneys can claim expertise in the area of eminent domain law. If you’re affected by eminent domain, you should obtain a consultation from an eminent domain lawyer so that you know and understand your rights before taking any action. Remember, the government is like any buyer, they will want to purchase your property as cheaply as possible, and their appraisers may neglect to consider damages that can lead to a larger amount of just compensation. 


The state of South Dakota has seen significant reform since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London, which has provided unassailable protection for property owners across the state. House Bill 1080 efficiently ended private to private transfers, narrowed the terms of usage of eminent domain in the state, and also puts a 7-year time frame on condemned property development. With these changes in effect, property owners in the state are now fully protected against eminent domain abuse. Click to read more about House Bill 1080.

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Questions about South Dakota Eminent Domain Law or if you’re interested in a free consultation, contact us today! If you want to call us, our main number is 866-339-7242. We look forward to hearing from you.