Lake County Criminal Court hears all criminal cases in Lake County. Below you will find specific information about criminal cases and how they are handled in Lake County.
I need help for my Lake County criminal case
The best place to get information about your criminal case is from an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to represent you which will assist in your case. For general information about your case the Lake County court clerk is able to provide general information about your specific case (e.g. date/time hearings, mandatory appearance, what will take place and what you will be required to do). The court clerk for Lake County will NOT be able to provide legal advice for your case, only an attorney can provide legal advice. The court clerk can provide legal information (like the information found on this website) about your case but cannot provide advice about what you should do in your legal manner.
Lake County Criminal Court locations
Criminal proceedings take place in the Lake County Criminal Courts. A list of the criminal courts are located here.
Who is the prosecutor for Lake County?
Depending upon the case, the prosecutor for Lake County criminal cases will either be a representative of Lake County or a representative from Montana. After reviewing evidence it is the prosecutor’s decision whether to file charges or drop a case. Most prosecutors have the ability to negotiate plea bargains, and determine how the case will be prosecuted.
What happens in Lake County at an arraignment?
In Lake County the defendant is brought into court and informed by the judge of the charges that have been filed against them along with informing them of their rights. At this time, the defendant can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, there will be no trial and the defendant may be sentenced immediately or at a later date. If the defendant pleads not guilty a trial date is set.
What is a Plea Agreement?
A plea agreement is a deal made between the prosecution and the defendant in a case, where the defendant agrees to plea guilty to a particular charge in exchange for some concession from the prosecutor. In practice, more than 90% of criminal cases end with a plea agreement.
In a jury trial in Lake County, after both the prosecution and defense have rested, the judge will give instructions to the jury and jury deliberations will begin. The jury will convence in a private room to discuss and deliberate the innocence or guilt of the defendant. Once the jury arrives at a unimanous decision, they will inform the judge that they have reached a decision. They will return to the court and the verdict will be read aloud. If the jury cannot reach a unaminous decision, the jury is said to be deadlocked and a mistrial will be declared in the case.
Sentencing in Lake County
In Lake County if the defendant is found guilty (by trial or plea), the defendant will be sentenced. This sometimes occurrs immediately after being found guilty, but can also take place at a later date. In most instances, a judge will impose the sentence that is requested by the prosecution, but they also have the descretion to impose a different sentence.
Required Court Appearances in Lake County
Any required court appearances in Lake County Criminal Court must be attended by the defendant. Failure to appear in court at your required date and time may result in the judge issuing an arrest warrant.
Burden of Proof Requirement
In a criminal case in the United States, the burden of proof always requires the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. This is a high threshold that must be met by the prosecution when presenting evidence in a case. If the prosecution fails in it’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt the judge must find the defendant not guilty. In a jury trial, the judge will inform the jury what this burden is and their obligation to find the defendant not guilty if they feel the prosecution did prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Right to an attorney
The US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment ensures the right to an attorney regardless of whether or not you can afford one. In Lake County a public defender will be appointed by the judge if you cannot afford private representation.
Jury by Trial Right
The US Constitution (Article 3 along with the 6th Amendment) ensures an accused defendant the right to a jury trial. This applies to crimes that have a $500 fine or a potential sentence of six months in jail (aka Serious Crimes). This right to trial by jury can also be waived by a defendant.
Can I appeal a guilty verdict?
If found guilty, a defendant may decide to appeal his case to an appelate court. The appellate court will not retry the case, they will examine the proceedings in the lower court to make sure they were done in a legal manner. The appellate court can either uphold the original conviction, or determine that due to errors made in the original trial, that there must be a retrial, resentencing or a complete dismissal of the charges.
Lake County Criminal Court Locations
Lake County District Court – 20th Judicial District
Address: 106 4th Avenue East, Polson, MT 59860
Phone: 406-883-7254 Fax: 406-883-7343
Lake County Justice Court
Address: 106 4th Avenue East, Polson, MT 59860
Phone: 406-883-7260 Fax: 406-883-7343
Polson City Court
Address: 106 1st Street East, Polson, MT 59860
Phone: 406-883-8212 Fax: 406-883-8238
Ronan City Court
Address: 207 Main Street, Suite B, Ronan, MT 59864
Phone 406-676-0211 Fax: 406-676-0213
St. Ignatius City Court
Address: 12 1st Avenue, PO Box 103, St. Ignatius, MT 59865
Phone: 406-745-3791 Fax: 406-745-2800