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What is the Law on affray in South Dakota and What are the Punishments for it?

Affray is a common law criminal offense. It involves public fighting leading to the disruption of peace. The offense requirements vary from state to state. It may or may not require coming to the blows. If someone carries arms, it may not in itself constitute a crime unless it leads to circumstances under which people feel terrified.

In 2003, the Supreme Court of North Carolina in Re May defined Affray in the following words: “An affray is defined at common law as a fight between two or more persons in a public place so as to cause terror to the public....”

Further, the Supreme Court identified three elements in Affray to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the offense to be established.

  • There was a fight between two or more persons.
  • The place where the fight took place is a public space
  • The fight caused terror among the public.
South Dakota Affray Law

Disorderly behavior or conduct is an umbrella term that includes affray as defined above. Many states have disorderly conduct laws that prohibit behaviors likely to interfere with peace.  Even as the definition of disorderly conduct varies from one state to the next, the law on disorderly conduct has a common theme to prohibit disruptive or obnoxious behavior.

Under South Dakota’s disorderly conduct law, behaviors, like causing obstruction of traffic, disturbing lawful assemblies, creating unreasonable noise, and engaging in various types of fights, are prohibited.

South Dakota – Disorderly Conduct (section 22-18-35)

List of Prohibitions

Causing serious public inconvenience, alarm or annoyance intentionally or causing a risk thereof by any of the following ways:

  • Engaging in threatening behavior or in violence or in the fighting.
  • Creating unreasonable noise
  • Causing disturbance to a lawful assembly
  • Obstructing traffic – vehicular or pedestrian
Affray Law South Dakota

In South Dakota, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor or Class 2 category

The punishment for disorderly conduct is more severe in the case of the offender within the last 10 years has been accused and convicted of the same three times or more. Under this condition, the accused offender would be punished for class 1 felony for the fourth time conviction.

There are several other crimes in South Dakota that resemble disorderly conduct closely as they disturb the peace but these crimes are nonetheless distinct from the crime of disorderly conduct.

Riot is a crime in South Dakota, and it is a Class 4 felony. Riot involves the illegal use of or threat of force or violence. The other requirements of riot include the presence of immediate power of execution by rioters and the presence of three or more people acting together unlawfully.

Affray Law

It is a crime in South Dakota to encourage or solicit violence during the riot. Someone who encourages or solicits other people or directs, advises, or encourages them to participate in a riot with the use of violence or force, is also a criminal even if they do not directly participate in a riot. It is a Class 2 felony.

Unlawful assembly in South Dakota is also a criminal offense. If a person engages with two or more other persons with the intention of engaging in a riot and staying there with the same intention to advance the purpose of riot, it amounts to an unlawful assembly which is a crime categorized under Class 1 felony. In this case, all three will be treated as criminals.

Disorderly conduct laws are commonplace in all the states of the United States. The purpose of these laws is to protect and restore peace and law and order among people.


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