Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers here to commonly asked questions about Dakota Plains Legal Services

What is Dakota Plains Legal Services (DPLS)?

DPLS is a non-profit legal aid organization that provides free, civil legal help to low-income individuals living in South Dakota and North Dakota. DPLS provides the following types of legal help:

      1. Advice

      2. Limited action, such as negotiations and drafting legal forms

      3. Representation

      4. Self help materials

      5. Community education

DPLS is able to assist with a variety of different legal issues. Please go to the Services page to see what types of legal problems DPLS can help with. 

Does DPLS help both tribal members and people who are not tribal members?

Yes! DPLS serves tribal and non-tribal members. You do not need to be a tribal member or Native American to be eligible for DPLS' services. Find out who is eligible for DPLS on the Eligibility page. Please note, the DPLS Sioux Falls Office assists people on a more limited basis. Please call the office for more information.

Do I have to apply to get legal help from DPLS? How do I apply?

Yes, you must apply before receiving legal help from DPLS. DPLS is able to offer free legal help because of the funding we receive. This funding has specific requirements. DPLS may only help people who are eligible, and your application is used to determine if you are eligible for services. You can apply online by clicking Apply Here or apply in person at any DPLS office during business hours. If you cannot come to an office and cannot apply online, please call your nearest DPLS office for assistance. Contact information can be found on the Contact Us page.

When you apply, your application will be reviewed by DPLS staff. If any additional information is needed, DPLS staff will contact you. When you apply, please provide a phone number and mailing address, as well as an email address if you have one. If you are determined to be eligible, DPLS staff will contact you with more information. Even if you are eligible, DPLS staff will talk to you more about whether they can assist you. Please go to the Eligibility and Services pages to find out who DPLS helps and what legal issues DPLS helps with.

If I call or go into a DPLS office, can someone give me legal help right away?

No. DPLS can only give legal help to people who have applied for our services and are determined by DPLS staff to be eligible. If you call a DPLS office, you will be asked to apply before any legal help is given. You can apply online by clicking Apply Here.

Does DPLS assist everyone who applies for free legal help?

Unfortunately, DPLS cannot assist everyone who applies for free legal help. First, you must be eligible for our services. Read more about eligibility on the Eligibility page.

 

Second, there must not be a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest exists when DPLS has previously helped someone who has interests that are against the person currently applying to DPLS. For example, if Sam applies to DPLS for help in getting child support from Alex, but DPLS previously helped Alex, there is a conflict of interest.

 

Third, DPLS only assists with legal issues within the program priorities. The program priorities are set by the DPLS Board of Directors. Find what types of issues DPLS assists with on the Services page.

 

Fourth, DPLS has limited resources and cannot assist everyone that applies, even when they are eligible, no conflict of interest exists, and the legal issue is within the program priorities. If DPLS cannot offer help, please check out the Self Help page for legal information and self-help materials that can be used.

Do I have to live in the DPLS service area to be eligible for free legal help?

Not necessarily. DPLS is able to assist people living outside of the service area if they have a legal problem within the DPLS service area. Please call the office nearest to where your legal issue is for more information. Contact information can be found on the Contact Us page.

Does it cost money to receive legal help from DPLS?

No! DPLS offers legal help for free to eligible individuals. There is no cost for DPLS services. However, there may be separate court costs or other costs associated with a case that clients are responsible for. Speak with someone at your local DPLS office if you have any questions about costs.

Can DPLS represent me in a criminal case?

DPLS only represents people in a criminal case if appointed by the court. You cannot apply for criminal legal help from DPLS.

Can DPLS help if me if I have a case in state court? Or in tribal court?

Yes, DPLS is able to assist individuals with civil legal issues in state courts and tribal courts. For legal information about state court and tribal court, please check out the Self Help page. 

If you have a hearing coming up and are seeking legal help, please contact DPLS as soon as possible by Applying Here or contacting your nearest DPLS office. Contact information can be found on the Contact Us page.

I have a hearing tomorrow. Can DPLS represent me?

Probably not, but call your local DPLS office to ask. DPLS staff first need to determine eligibility, and then need time to review the facts of a case and prepare for a hearing. Additionally, DPLS is not able to represent people in every case and may be able to offer advice only. If you have a hearing tomorrow, this week, or next week, please contact your nearest DPLS office to ask about services. Go the the Contact Us page for contact information.

Does DPLS need copies of my court papers?

Yes! If you have any court papers related to your legal issue, please provide them to DPLS staff as soon as possible. Court papers help DPLS staff understand the legal issue and determine eligibility. If you are applying in person at a DPLS office or going into an office for an appointment, please bring any court documents or other papers with you. If you applied online or are speaking with DPLS over the phone, DPLS staff will give you information on how to email or text photos of the court documents.

Why do I have to give my financial information to apply for legal help?

DPLS can only give legal help to those who are below certain income limits, and this eligibility requirement is set by those who fund DPLS, like the Legal Services Corporation. When you apply, you must provide your financial information so DPLS staff can determine if you are within the eligibility guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact your local DPLS office for more information.

Can I get a document notarized at a DPLS office?

Yes! Most of the DPLS offices have a notary public on site that can notarize documents. Please contact your local DPLS office to check if notary service is available before coming in. Make sure to bring a valid ID with you and do not sign the document until you are in front of a notary.