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What are Montana Juvenile Court Records?

The Montana Juvenile court system was developed to cater to cases that involved persons under the age of eighteen. Typically, information concerning the juvenile court proceedings and other details relevant to the case are contained in the state’s juvenile court records.

In Montana State, the Youth Court is a specialty court that has original jurisdiction over juvenile cases and hears such cases in any of its twenty-two court locations, with each situated in a judicial district. Cases usually heard at the court are issues on delinquent acts committed by minors that the state laws or city/county ordinances classify as either misdemeanors or felonies violations. The Youth Court has the jurisdiction to refer a case to the state’s District Court after preliminary proceedings.

However, the Youth Court shares jurisdiction with some other courts on offenses done by minors that involve the possession of alcohol, tobacco, or gambling.

Juvenile court records are prepared and managed in the courthouse where the hearing occurred. The clerk of court identifies as the custodian of juvenile records and interested persons can request non-confidential information for the office if they are eligible.

What Information is Contained in a Montana Juvenile Record?

Under Section 41–5–216 of the Montana statutes, juvenile records are disclosed to the public but are automatically sealed once the minor clocks eighteen years of age. Information contained on Montana juvenile records includes the personal details of the juveniles, court-prepared documents, and other data regarding their offenses. Such information included:

  • Police reports
  • Preliminary inquiries
  • Court findings
  • Dispositions
  • Findings from a court-ordered evaluation
  • Offense history

What Cases are Heard by Montana Juvenile Courts?

The Montana juvenile courts hear cases concerning delinquency acts. Juvenile delinquency cases are usually referred to the court by the minor’s parents/legal guardians or law enforcement agency. When the court receives such complaints about delinquent youths, a preliminary investigation ensues, and a juvenile inquiry officer assesses the minor to decide on the method of disposition.

Upon the assessment procedures, minors that are in need of special help are referred to the Department of Public Health. Cases regarding abuse or neglect of minors are also transferred to the District Court.

The probation officer may decide to take an informal disposition for delinquency cases and refer the youth, alongside their family, to a counseling agency or any other relevant agency that provides similar services. This method of disposition is non-judicial and does not involve the offender being put in a detention center or placed on probation.

Alternatively, the probation officer can refer serious cases of delinquency acts to the county attorney to initiate formal charges of the offender in a Youth Court within the jurisdiction that the offense occurred. Juveniles can also be brought in through arrest by law officers, pursuant to the violation of the state laws. Persons found guilty in the Youth Court face penalties that include payment of fines, community service, or placement in a juvenile institution.

Who is Eligible to View Juvenile Records in Montana?

According to Section 41–5–216 of the Youth Court Act, interested members of the public can view juvenile records including their court records, police records, and the Department of Corrections records, only if the subject of the record is below the age of eighteen. After the sealing of juvenile records when the youth clocks eighteen years of age, only the following parties are eligible to view them:

  • Individuals with a court-issued order
  • The youth court
  • The minor’s parents or guardians
  • The minor’s attorney
  • Representatives of institutions that may have legal custody of the youth
  • The subject of the record, upon becoming an adult or via emancipation
  • The county attorney
  • Victims of a juvenile’s delinquent acts

How to Find Juvenile Records in Montana

Interested parties may find juvenile records in Montana State at the court where the case hearing occurred. Individuals can obtain juvenile records of youths below eighteen years of age. Access to sealed juvenile records of persons above eighteen are only available to eligible parties, as stated in the Youth Court Act

Typically, the clerk of the court is the custodian of juvenile records and interested persons can use the resources the office provides to get desired records. Individuals may visit the clerk’s office and request for juvenile records in-person, upon the payment of required fees.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Can You Lookup Montana Juvenile Records Online?

Yes, interested individuals can look up juvenile records in Montana via online resources. Records pertaining to youth considered minor are available for inspection on electronic platforms. Persons may use the court case search site or third-party websites that offer such services to look up juvenile information.

Under Section 41–5–220, records that the court physically seals or destroys must also be effected on online platforms. Since custodians cannot disclose juvenile records of adults to the general public, such information is also not available through online platforms.

Does Montana Juvenile Records Show up on Background Checks?

In Montana, information obtained from background checks may include juvenile records if the subject of the record is not an adult. However, juvenile records do not show up on background checks on persons that are above eighteen years old. Juveniles that commit severe offenses such as aggravated assault, deliberate homicide, and other violations mentioned in Section 41–5–206, can be tried as an adult in the District Court. Hence, records concerning such juveniles may be available for background checks except information sealed by the court.

How Long are Juvenile Records Kept in Montana?

Juvenile records in Montana are available till they are sealed or expunged. Typically, juvenile records become inaccessible when the offender becomes an adult. However, sealed records may still be available to certain eligible persons. Records of juveniles that the court charged as an adult are also open for inspection till the offender files an expunction motion that the court may grant. Custodians of such records are responsible for erasing them and any other persons with physical copies of such records must also destroy their copies.

Juvenile records can also be reopened if any complainant files a petition or a post-judgment motion.

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