Criminal cases are filed into the Court on a Complaint filed by the County Attorney's office. Many times, an investigation results in a Complaint being filed long after the alleged crime took place. A summons or notice to appear can be issued from the Court, or a Warrant of Arrest may be requested by the County Attorney's office.
Justice of the Peace Contact Information:
Justice of the Peace
Michael G. Swingley
Clerk of Justice Court
Court appearances are everyday at 8:30 A.M. and again at 1:00 P.M. after the judge sees the prisoners. Check in at the front desk. It's a good idea to call ahead and make sure your ticket is actually in our Court or that the issuing officer has brought it in.
What Happens at your initial appearance?
The Judge will read you your rights and then ask for a plea of either Guilty or Not-Guilty. If you plead Guilty, the Judge will allow you to make statements concerning the offense and then he will sentence you.
If you plead Not-Guilty, the Judge will ask you if you want a Jury or Non-Jury trial and then stop the proceedings and refer you to the clerk to set a trial date. In some cases, a Public Defender may be appointed to represent you.
Certain files with outstanding fines are now being sent to the Department of Revenue for further action. If you are entitled to a Montana tax return this will be intercepted and sent to the court for your outstanding fines and the Department of Revenue will retain their fee for this service.
Upon conviction of a domestic violence offense, the defendant will be required to complete at their own cost 40 hours of counseling with a focus on violence, dangerousness, controlling behavior and chemical dependency and complete all recommendations of the assessment. The counseling must be performed by (a) a person licensed under Title 37, chapter 17, 22, or 23, MCA; (b) a professional person as defined in 53-21-102, MCA, or (c) a specialized domestic violence intervention program.
Defendants convicted of Misdemeanor Drug offenses are required by law to attend the Montana Dangerous Drug program and contribute to the drug fund of the arresting agency.
Upon conviction of a DUI / Per Se 1st, 2nd or 3rd offense, the Defendant will be required to attend a state certified alcohol treatment course program at their own expense. The Judge may recommend (1st offense ONLY) a probationary license but the defendant must enroll in the state certified alcohol treatment course program and have paid a $200 probationary license fee to Helena. For 2nd and 3rd offenses the defendant must also complete alcohol treatment. A 4th or subsequent offense is a felony.
Initial arraignments on Felony cases are handled in Justice Court and a preliminary hearing is scheduled. Usually, felonies are filed directly into District Court around the preliminary hearing date and further inquiries about the case should be directed to District Court at 447-8216 or the County Attorney’s office at 447-8221.
Many types of misdemeanor criminal cases are seen in Justice Court. They range from more serious traffic offenses such as Dui / Per Se, Negligent Endangerment, Theft, Assault, Drug offenses, and others.