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Illegal possession of a firearm in South Dakota

South Dakota has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the nation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a “free for all” situation. You can still get into trouble for possessing a firearm in violation of the law. 

For example, it’s illegal to possess a firearm if you have a prior conviction for certain drug offenses or a violent crime within the last 15 years, have been convicted of felony possession of drugs within the last five years, or have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime within the last year. 

What if you’re caught with a gun in violation of the law? 

Depending on the circumstances, you could be facing significant prison time and fines just for having a weapon in violation of the law — and it’s important to understand that the law may define “possession” differently than you think. 

Under the law, there are two different types of possession: actual and constructive. Actual possession is fairly easy to identify. In essence, that charge requires the police to either catch you with the weapon in your hand or within ready reach. 

Constructive possession is a little more complicated, although you can end up facing charges just the same. With constructive possession, the police need to show that you had access to and control over the firearm, wherever it was concealed. For example, if a weapon is discovered in the trunk of your car, the police can charge you with constructive possession simply because it’s your car and you have the keys to the trunk. It doesn’t matter if someone else put the gun there, for whatever reason. 

Understanding the way the authorities view a situation can help you stay out of trouble. If you have already made a mistake, take immediate steps to protect your legal rights until you can explore all your defense options.