Many people represent themselves and many people do so successfully. Please visit our Self Help section for information on hearings and trials as well as some forms you may find helpful. However, if you are charged with something that may involve a jail sentence, you should consider this option carefully. There can be risks associated with self-representation and you should be aware that some offenses in Municipal Court can have unexpected long term consequences on gun rights or driving privileges. The Court will try to answer any procedural questions you have during the process, but the Court cannot tell you how to proceed nor can it give you any legal advice. You will be expected to conduct yourself appropriately and understand the basic rules of evidence and procedure.
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Many tickets can be paid on-line at CitepayUSA or paid at the counter without waiting to see the Judge. Please call 406-552-6180 to verify if your citation can be paid without a court appearance. Most minor traffic offenses and city ordinance violations qualify for an appearance with the Traffic Bureau Settlement Master. The Settlement Master isn't a Judge, but is able to accept a guilty, no contest, or not guilty plea, the same as the Judge. If you wish to plead guilty or no contest, the Settlement Master will proceed with sentencing, based on guidelines from the Municipal Court Judge. The Settlement Master may also be able to offer a deferred sentence, if you meet specific qualifications. If you wish to plead not guilty, which will start the process for a trial, the Settlement Master will set your next hearing date. All future hearings, after an entry of not guilty plea, will occur with the Judge.
Missoula Municipal Court does not have the power to expunge a conviction. The legislature has granted that authority exclusively to District Courts. If your sentence was deferred at the time it was pronounced AND you have successfully completed all conditions of the sentence, the Court can dismiss the charge and seal your cause number. What that means is that the public does not have access to the details of the conviction and your criminal record will state that the charge has been dismissed. This request will be denied if the Court finds that you (1) did not complete all conditions of your sentence on time; (2) if you had a new charge during the time the deferred sentence was running or (3) if the time for deferment has not expired. If you did not receive a deferred sentence and believe your conviction should be taken off your record, you may be best served by consulting an attorney.
The Montana Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assigns points to convictions for traffic offenses. Municipal Court is required to report all convictions to the DMV. On receipt of notice that an individual has a conviction, the DMV will place points on your record. If you accumulate too many points on your record, you could lose your driving privileges. Each insurance company has different methods of determining your insurance rates. Many base some rate changes on the points the DMV places on your driving record.
You can check your driver’s license status with the DMV to find out how many points you have. Some of the more common points include: DUI= 10 points Driving While Suspended = 6 points Reckless Driving = 5 points No Insurance = 4 points Speeding = 3 points Careless Driving = 2 points Moving Violations = 2 points
The Court is required to report every traffic conviction to the Montana Department of Motor Vehicles. In limited circumstances, the Court does have the ability to “defer sentence” on traffic offenses. A deferred sentence would allow the points be removed from your record after the period of deferment has ended. PLEASE NOTE: Under Federal Law the Court cannot defer your ticket if you have a CDL.
The Court will not dismiss your ticket based on your explanation about what happened without allowing the City Attorney’s Office to be heard and present witnesses.
If you received a ticket from a sheriff's deputy or highway patrol (brown uniform), you need to appear in Justice Court located in the County Courthouse at 200 W. Broadway.
If your license was suspended by Missoula Municipal Court for non-compliance or failure to appear you must come to the Court to address it. After you have taken care of the non-compliance, by appearing and bringing yourself into compliance, you will need to get a reinstatement from the DMV.
In Missoula, there are several providers that are the court routinely refers defendants who have been ordered to complete Anger Management counseling to:
Defendants may also go to another counselor of their choice and must provide the counselor's name, address and phone number to the court. If ordered to complete Anger Management, defendants must complete as ordered at sentencing.
Many traffic citations do not require a defendant to personally appear and you may be able to forfeit bond at the counter or by phone (payments cannot be made by phone but can made online through CitePayUSA, by mail, or at the counter). Any charge cited under Montana Code Annotated section 45 and any charge of Driving Under the Influence requires the defendant to see a judge. Any traffic violation that has the statutory possibility of jail time will require personal appearance (examples: Fail to Remain at Accident Scene, Reckless Driving, Montana Resident Operate with Foreign Driver's License More than 60 Days). Citations issued in the course of an accident investigation will require personal appearance if the officer indicated that the court must address Restitution to another party. Most minor traffic offenses and city ordinance violations qualify for an appearance with the Traffic Bureau Settlement Master. The Settlement Master isn't a Judge, but is able to accept a guilty, no contest, or not guilty plea, the same as the Judge. If you wish to plead guilty or no contest, the Settlement Master will proceed with sentencing, based on guidelines from the Municipal Court Judge. The Settlement Master may also be able to offer a deferred sentence, if you meet specific qualifications. If you wish to plead not guilty, which will start the process for a trial, the Settlement Master will set your next hearing date. All future hearings, after an entry of no guilty plea, will occur with the Judge.
If you did not have an attorney you may appear during public appearance times to make your request (it must be made before the judge that sentenced you) or file a Motion to Modify Sentence found in the Pro Se Resources. If you had an attorney when you were sentenced and your counsel has not withdrawn from the case, you may request your attorney file a Motion to Modify Sentence.