Montana Court Records
What Are Montana Traffic Court Records?
Traffic court records in Montana describe all documents and filings that relate to traffic offenses and their subsequent court proceedings in the state. Basically, a traffic case starts from the point where an offender is issued a ticket for a traffic infraction and ends when the case is completely settled with a fine or a court case with a definitive ruling. All records created and maintained during this process are traffic court records. They include the initial speeding ticket; documentation of fines paid or a notification of a hearing if the accused seeks to contest the ticket; and court filings of the case.
Which Courts in Montana Have Jurisdiction to Hear Traffic Violation Matters
According to an official Guide to the Courts, traffic cases in Montana are heard by the Justice of the Peace Court. Montana has a total of 56 counties and there is at least one Justice of the Peace Court per county. Montana also has City Courts and Municipal Courts that have the same jurisdiction as a Justice of the Peace Court. Appeals from these lower courts of general jurisdiction are heard in the state’s District Courts.
What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket In Montana
The Montana Vehicle Operating Requirements identified different reasons motorists may be issued traffic tickets. Some of these offenses include:
- Unauthorized parking
- Moving faster than the authorized speed restrictions
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
- Turning without using the turn signal
- Disregarding a stop sign
- Driving without wearing a seatbelt
- Driving without required car documentation e.g. insurance, driver’s license.
Some offenses are minor and don’t carry as much weight as others. For example, driving under the influence is much more serious than unauthorized parking.
A motorist given a traffic ticket in Montana has three options:
- Paying the traffic ticket
- Requesting mitigation hearing
- Contesting the ticket
Accepting the Fine:
The first option is to simply accept the ticket and pay the stipulated fine. It is important to know that paying the fine is a direct admission of guilt. This means that the accused accepts that they violated a traffic law and will be paying the fine.
Also, everyone has a right to contest their traffic ticket in court. If an offender accepts the fine and admits guilt, they are essentially waiving their right to contest the ticket.
Ticketed persons may also have their licenses suspended by the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the Montana Department of Justice. However, this outcome depends on the person’s driving record and may not always happen.
Apply for a Mitigation Hearing
An offender has the option of requesting a mitigation hearing, depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense. If an offender feels that they have a good enough reason for the offense to get some leniency from the court, a mitigation hearing is a way to go.
If the offender convinces the traffic court, the presiding judge may reduce the fine amount to be paid or extend the payment period. In some cases, the court approves monthly repayment plans to ease the payment burden. A mitigation hearing may also lead to other outcomes besides paying the fine. These alternatives include taking a defensive driving course, attending traffic school, and performing community service.
It is important to note that requesting a mitigation hearing is also an admittance of guilt, with the option of explaining why the infraction occurred. It is not the same thing as contesting the ticket. Also, requesting a mitigation hearing does not guarantee mitigation. The court could very well reject the explanation, forcing the offender to pay the fine.
Finally, the court’s decision after a mitigation hearing cannot be appealed. This is because the offender has already admitted guilt.
Contest the Ticket
If for some reason an alleged offender believes the ticket was issued wrongly, a contested hearing can be requested at the county court where the offense supposedly took place. Though offenders are allowed to represent themselves, an experienced lawyer is always advised as the severity of the case could lead to license revocation, suspension, or cancellation.
The court case would require the prosecutor to prove that the accused indeed committed a Montana traffic violation or infraction. The accused or a legal representative would also have to prove that the ticket isn’t justified. Following arguments and evidence from both sides, the judge may have the case completely struck off, have the fine reduced, or insist that the accused is guilty and must pay the fine.
How Do I Look Up My Traffic Ticket In Montana?
Montana does not provide an online-lookup option for traffic tickets. To look up their tickets, offending motorists must visit the Montana Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). After providing their driver’s licenses, MVD officials can then search for outstanding tickets. The MVD is located at:
302 N Roberts
Helena, MT 59620–1430
How Do I Pay a Traffic Ticket in Montana?
You can pay a traffic fine in Montana, either in person or online.
To pay in person, an offender is free to visit the courthouse on or before the stipulated date to make a direct payment.
However, the easiest way to make the payment is online. Regardless of the county, an offender can visit the Montana Courts Online Payment System and follow the simple steps there. Please note that payment is only accepted with VISA, MasterCard or Discover.
As earlier explained, payment of fines is an admittance of guilt and affected persons should note that there are consequences to taking this option. While it avoids the stress of a court case, it almost always has an effect on insurance rates, with up to 25% increase in some. Driving infractions suggest that the offender’s behavior on the road might be reckless, and this increases their insurance rates.
Another thing to consider here is that Montana, like many states, uses a point system for its traffic offenses. Different offenses attract a specific number of points and the more these points accumulate, the higher the penalty.
Please note that taking a defensive driving course as explained above under possible outcomes of a mitigation hearing, does not remove points from a driving record.
How Do I Find a Montana Traffic Court Record?
Montana traffic court records can be accessed in person at a courthouse. In the state, traffic cases are handled by the Justice of the Peace, Municipal, or City courts. However, these courts do not put their records online. To access a Montana traffic court record, visit the courthouse location listed on the ticket or where the traffic case was heard. Montana courthouses have public access terminals for looking up court records. To obtain paper copies of these records, visit the Office of the Clerk of the Court to make a request. The Clerk charges for copies of court records. There is a search fee of $31 per name or request. Copy fee is 10 cents per page.
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
Can Montana Traffic Records Be Sealed or Expunged?
According to the Motor Vehicle Division’s guide on driving records, traffic convictions will remain on an offender’s records and cannot be expunged. In Montana, traffic convictions are permanent.
How to Contest a Traffic Ticket in Montana Court
Anyone who chooses to contest a traffic ticket in court needs to assess the situation properly. Before the contest, an offender must determine whether or not they have enough proof of their innocence, to present in court. There is also the time to be devoted to preparing for the case. An offender may handle their own representation but preparation time is necessary. Hiring an attorney may be necessary especially for offenses, such as DUI, where jail term is a possibility.
If a ticketed motorist decides to move forward with a contest, an arraignment will be scheduled in the county of offense. During the arraignment, the offender will be asked how they plead, and they must respond “not guilty”.
Another date will then be set for a hearing where the case will be argued. If the case is dismissed, they are free to go and all charges dropped, without any points or convictions. If they lose, they may pay a fine, have their license withdrawn, or get jail time.
If the offender is displeased with the court’s ruling, they can appeal the decision. A traffic court appeal goes to the district court, where the case will have to be argued again.