Justice Court

The Justice of the Peace for Lewis and Clark County is Michael G. Swingley and Mark V. Piskolich.

  • Office hours of the court are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday thru Friday.
  • Initial appearances for citations and other criminal matters are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. for Judge Swingley, and 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. for Judge Piskolich (Monday through Friday).
  • If you have been issued a citation by an officer, have received a notice by mail of a pending criminal case or been served with a notice to appear, you must appear before the court on the date and time specified.
  • Prisoners that are in custody in the Lewis and Clark Detention Center make their initial appearance in court via closed circuit television at 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • If you have been served with a summons in a civil case, the summons with which you were served gives you instructions that you must follow with regard to filing an answer and the payment of fees.
Justice Court Dockets

Swingley Docket(PDF, 109KB)

Piskolich Docket(PDF, 101KB)

Justice Court is the judicial branch of County government responsible for the processing of all misdemeanor offenses, both traffic, criminal and animal control violations that occur within Lewis and Clark County. It is the court wherein nearly all felony cases that occur within Lewis and Clark County are initially filed. Justice Court processes citations issued by;

  • Montana Highway Patrol
  • Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office;
  • Montana Fish , Wildlife and Parks Department
  • Motor Carrier Services of the Department of Transportation
  • Lewis and Clark County Animal Control Officer
  • State Department of Livestock
  • State Gambling Control Division
  • and in some cases the Helena Police Department.

Justice Court also processes civil complaints. Effective July 1, 2011 justice courts jurisdictional limits are not to exceed $12,000.00 and small claims complaints are not to exceed $7,000.00. Justice Court issues orders of protection and search warrants. The court provides an initial appearance to persons arrested on warrants from outside Lewis and Clark County and to persons arrested for probation violations. The justice of the peace is authorized to perform marriages.


Civil (information-Civil)

Attorneys are permitted in civil court. There is a $12,000.00 limit. Civil suits can not address personal property issues. Papers must be served by the Sheriff's department, a private process server or a disinterested 3rd party that is over the age of 18 and can serve papers. The cost to file a civil case is $50.00.

Criminal (information-criminal)

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.

Court Appearances

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.

Collections

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.

Domestic Violence

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.

Drug Offenses

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.

DUIs-Per Se

(MCA 61-8-401, 61-8-406) (information-tickets & criminal)

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.

Felonies

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.

Misdemeanors

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.

Justice Court Dockets

Swingley

Piskolich(PDF, 101KB)