Yellowstone County, Montana
Justice Court
Frequently Asked Questions Contact Department

Criminal & Traffic Cases

Do you provide forms online?

We have some forms available on our Forms page.  

When can I see the Judge?

Justice Court has appearances Monday thru Friday at 9:00 A.M. The issuing agency will write an appearance date on your ticket 10 days from when you were issued the ticket.

At 3:15 P.M. the court begins to process in-custody arraignments via video link from the Yellowstone County Detention Facility and Initial Appearances on those charged with a Felony. After those appearances are complete, the court sees criminal cases and other cases as needed.

What happens when I see the Judge?

Some offenses are mandatory appearances before the Judge. The Judge will ask you to enter a plea. If you to plead Guilty, the Judge will sentence you. You must explain to the judge why you are Guilty. A Guilty plea will not be accepted by the judge if your explanations do not support the Guilty plea.

If you plead Not Guilty your case will be set for trial. The Judge will advise you of your hearing dates. Non-Jury and Jury trials are set about 6-8 weeks from your appearance.
A No Contest plea can only be entered with approval of the prosecution and the judge.

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

A jury trial in Justice Court consists of 6 residents of the county randomly selected.  All 6 jurors must agree if you are guilty or not guilty.  Upon conviction court may assess jury costs and witness fees.

A Non Jury is before the judge.  The judge determines whether your are guilty or not guilty.

In both a jury and non-jury trial, the verdict must be based upon a finding of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is an Omnibus hearing?

A  pre trial between the prosecutor and defendant to discuss and consider matters related to discovery of evidence procedures and pre-trial motions.  Settlement of the case can be considered by the parties at the omnibus hearing.

How do I get a Public Defender?

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 enter a not guilty plea, 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.

You may be required to pay for your representation by the Public Defender’s office.

Can I get my ticket deferred?

After the entry of a guilty plea or verdict, you may request a deferred sentence.  You can not condition a guilty plea upon receiving a deferred sentence.  The granting of a deferred sentence is in the discretion of the judge.  The judge will take into consideration:  the offense you are charged with, driving history, whether or not the citation was the result of an accident involving damage to property or injury to person, whether you have received a deferred sentence in the past. If you have a CDL (Commercial Driver License) a deferred sentence may not be granted.

How will this ticket affect my insurance?

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.

What is the ACT (aka PRIME FOR LIFE) program?

ACT stands for Assessment, Course and Treatment. It is a state approved program required by Montana Law for those convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI or DUI per se).

How do I get a probationary driver's license?

A first offense DUI or Per Se offender must have the approval of the Court, be enrolled in ACT, have a valid Montana driver license.  You are required to pay a $200 reinstatement fee to Records and Driver Control Bureau.

A person with two or more DUI offenses must wait 45 / 90 days respectively, have the court’s approval and apply directly to the Records and 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.

Contact Records and Driver Control Bureau for more information:

Records and Driver Control Bureau
303 North Roberts
Helena, MT 59601
(406) 444-3289

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

A person who is suspended for failure to appear, failure to pay fines or failure to comply with sentence, NO. You'll need to contact the Court that requested your driving privileges be suspended.  If you aren’t sure, call 406-444-3289.  You will be required to pay a $100.00 reinstatement fee to the Records and Driver Control Bureau.

Why did the judge suspend my driver’s license?

When the court sent a Fail to Pay, Fail to Appear or Fail to Comply Notice for not making a payment on time, not appearing in court or not complying with a requirement of your sentence, the notice warns of pending suspension if you do not pay your fine or see the judge by a prescribed date. The warning states: “All delinquent payments, (etc.) must be made immediately or a warrant of arrest may be issued and your driver’s license will be suspended.”   If you are suspended, you will be required to pay a $100.00 reinstatement fee to the Records and Driver Control Bureau before reinstatement.

Justice Court Contact Information:
Justice Court of Record
Yellowstone County
PO Box 35032
Billings, MT.  59107-5032

Civil/Small Claims matters:
Criminal matters:

Fax number: 406-256-2898

While the Justice Court clerks are pleased to assist you in any way possible, please understand that we are unable to provide legal advice. If you need legal advice or have questions, please contact an attorney.