Legal Interpreting Guidelines in South Dakota

South Dakota US mapRegulations for legal interpreters in South Dakota differ from those in other states.

Legal Language Services ranks South Dakota as a state with lightly regulated legal interpreting requirements.

In general, your legal interpreter must have the appropriate level of certification that meets your language needs. This is especially true if you require a court interpreter.

This does not mean, however, that you should hire a certified interpreter for every situation. Whether or not an interpreter is certified — let alone the level of certification — will have an effect on how much you are charged for legal interpreting services.

Do you need a certified interpreter?

Due to the added cost of certified professionals, it may not be a sound strategy to use certified legal interpreters if certification is not legally required for your proceeding.

In fact, some situations may not benefit from certified interpreters. In particular, where subject matter expertise and/or special skills are required, certification may be a secondary consideration in securing a competent interpreter.

As previously noted, non-certified legal interpreters can provide professional interpreting services at a more affordable price. As in other states, a certified interpreter in South Dakota will command a higher fee for legal interpreting services. Prices will be affected based on the level of certification.

Legal Language can help you determine the best interpreter, certified or otherwise, for your legal interpreting needs in South Dakota.

Requirements for Certified Interpreters in South Dakota

South Dakota does not require certified interpreters for any legal proceeding, nor does the state offer certification in any language.

It is up to the local courts to determine the qualifications of interpreters of languages. New interpreters are screened prior to being placed on the court’s local roster.

Call Legal Language Services at 1-800-788-0450 to find South Dakota interpreters for courtroom trials, hearings, depositions, arbitrations and other legal proceedings.

Common Languages Spoken in South Dakota

According to a recent American Community Survey, approximately 6.54% of the South Dakota population speaks a language other than English.

What’s more, almost 85% of the non-English speaking population in South Dakota speaks one of the following 10 languages:

Spanish 31.50%
Dakota 21.25%
German 20.95%
Vietnamese 2.45%
Chinese* 1.83%
Russian 1.53%
Amharic 1.38%
French 1.38%
American Indian 1.22%
Serbo-Croatian 1.22%


Other languages spoken in South Dakota include other specified African languages, Tagalog, Czech, Korean, Croatian, Arabic, Hindi, African languages, Norwegian, South/Central American Indian, Ukrainian, Cushite, Afrikaans, Japanese, Dutch, Laotian, Swahili and Urdu.

*This table was created based on respondents’ written answers, the majority of whom wrote “Chinese” while others specified “Cantonese” or “Mandarin.”

Classification of Interpreters in South Dakota

The South Dakota Judicial Department defines legal interpreters in the following ways:

  • Certified Interpreter: An interpreter who has successfully completed the Federal Court Interpreter Examination for a language in which an examination is currently available including Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole.
  • Professionally Qualified Interpreter: An interpreter who has sufficient documentation and authentication for providing interpreting services in languages other than Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole and who has passed a written exam.
  • Language Skilled/Ad Hoc Interpreter: An interpreter who does not qualify as “professionally qualified” or certified, but who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court their ability to interpret court proceedings.

Judicial Districts in South Dakota

Legal interpreting requirements can vary by district in South Dakota. This state as 7 judicial districts that encompass 66 counties:

  • 1st Judicial District of South Dakota
    Counties: Aurora, Bon Homme, Brule, Buffalo, Charles Mix, Clay, Davison, Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson, McCook, Turner, Union, Yankton
  • 2nd Judicial District of South Dakota
    Counties: Lincoln, Minnehaha
  • 3rd Judicial District of South Dakota
    Counties: Beadle, Brookings, Clark, Codington, Deuel, Grant, Hamlin, Hand, Jerauld, Kingsbury, Lake, Miner, Moody, Sanborn
  • 4th Judicial District of South Dakota
    Counties: Butte, Corson, Dewey, Harding, Lawrence, Meade, Perkins, Ziebach
  • 5th Judicial District of South Dakota
    Counties: Brown, Campbell, Day, Edmunds, Faulk, Marshall, McPherson, Roberts, Spink, Walworth
  • 6th Judicial District of South Dakota
    Counties: Bennett, Gregory, Haakon, Hughes, Hyde, Jackson, Jones, Lyman, Mellette, Potter, Stanley, Sully, Todd, Tripp
  • 7th Judicial District of South Dakota
    Counties: Custer, Fall River, Pennington, Shannon

Not all venues in South Dakota require certified interpreters, even for Spanish-language cases. Please consult with Legal Language Services for the rules pertaining to your specific venue and language.

Please Note

The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information about legal interpreting guidelines in South Dakota is believed to be accurate at the time of posting; however, Legal Language Services is not responsible for any errors or omissions.