FAQs

Question: Do you provide your forms online?

Answer: We have some forms available. Visit our Forms page for a list of forms.

Question: When can I see the Judge?

Answer: Justice Court has appearances every day at 8:30 A.M. and again at 1:00 P.M. The issuing agency usually will write an appearance date on your ticket 10 days from when you were issued the ticket.

At 1:00 P.M. the court processes in-custody arraignments via video link from the Lewis & Clark County Detention Facility. After those appearances are complete, the court sees criminal cases and other cases as needed.

Question: What happens when I see the Judge?

Answer: Some offenses are mandatory appearances before the Judge. The Judge will ask you for a Guilty or Not Guilty plea. If you decide to plead Guilty, the Judge will sentence you then. You may explain to the judge the circumstances of why you are guilty, but you cannot plead guilty and explain to the judge why you are not guilty.

It is also your right to a trial. Upon entry of a Not Guilty plea, the Judge will ask you for the trial type, Non-Jury or Jury, and a trial will be set. Non-Jury trials are set about 6-8 weeks from your appearance. Jury trials take much longer to set and require a pre-trial hearing.

Question: What is the difference between a Jury and Non Jury trial?

Answer: A jury trial in Justice Court is a trial where 6 citizens have been randomly selected to hear the case and will make a decision of your guilt or innocence. You may be required to pay for the cost of the trial depending upon the outcome, including the jury costs and witness fees. A jury trial may be set as far out as 4 or 5 months from the time of your initial appearance in front of the Judge.

A Judge Trial (or Bench Trial) in Justice Court is a trial where the judge alone will make a decision of your guilt or innocence based on evidence presented at the trial.

Question: What is an Omnibus hearing?

Answer: The Omnibus hearing is set as a deadline for certain requirements to the Court in preparation for a Jury Trial. In addition, the actual trial will be set at this hearing.

Question: How do I get a Public Defender?

Answer: If the charge you are faced with meets certain criteria, you may be appointed a Public Defender by the court. When you appear in front of the Judge and either enter a not guilty plea or simply say you would like to speak to an attorney, the judge will ask if you can afford an attorney. If you are unable to afford an attorney, the judge may appoint one for you.

When you leave the courtroom, you will be directed to the Public Defender’s office. They will have you fill out paperwork to determine if you qualify for their services. You cannot get a Public Defender without first seeing the judge. You may be required to pay for your representation by the Public Defender’s office.

Question: Can I get my ticket deferred?

Answer:  Yes on some traffic tickets if you have not had any deferred before or you do not possess a CDL license. This also applies to criminal cases.

Question: How will this ticket affect my insurance?

Answer: Justice Court does not actively report traffic tickets to insurance companies. Insurance companies have access to your driving record and make their own decisions on how traffic offenses will affect your rates. We have no input or control on what insurance companies will do.

Question: What is the ACT program?

Answer: ACT stands for Assessment, Course, Treatment. It is a program required by Montana Law for those convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI or DUI per se) and can be ordered in other cases as well.

Question: What is the MDD program?

Answer: MDD stands for Montana Dangerous Drug program and is required for convictions for drug related offenses.

Question: How do I get a probationary driver's license?

Answer: A first DUI or Per Se offender must have the approval of the Court, be enrolled in ACT, have a valid Montana drivers license and pay a $200 reinstatement fee to be paid to Records and Driver Control Bureau.

A person with two or more DUI offenses must wait 90 days and apply directly to the Driver Control Bureau. In addition to other strict conditions, the person is required to be in compliance with the Court order and complete alcohol and drug treatment.

You may also need to satisfy other conditions as well.

Contact Records and Driver Control Bureau for more information.

Records and Driver Control Bureau
303 North Roberts
Helena, MT 59601
(406) 444-3275

Question: My license is suspended. Can I get a work permit?

Answer: If you are suspended for failure to appear or failure to pay fines, no. You'll need to contact the Court where you are suspended. If you are suspended for a DUI, contact Drivers Services in Helena and they will advise you on what you need to do to get a work permit.

Question: Why did the judge suspend my driver’s license?

Answer: When the court sent you a Fail to Pay Notice for not making a payment on time, the notice gives a warning if you do not pay your fine or see the judge by a prescribed date. The warning states: “All delinquent payments must be made immediately or a warrant of arrest may be issued and your driver’s license will be suspended.” Your driver’s license may have been suspended for never making an initial appearance or failing to make subsequent appearances on your ticket.

Justice of the Peace Contact Information:

Justice of the Peace
Michael G. Swingley
Email

Clerk of Justice Court

Mailing Address:
228 Broadway, Room 102
Helena, Montana, 59601

Civil/Small Claims matters: 406-447-8201

Criminal matters: 406-447-8202

Fax number: 406-447-8269