Yellowstone County Criminal Court handles all criminal cases that are filed in Yellowstone County. See below for more information about criminal cases in Yellowstone County.
Yellowstone County Required Court Appearances
In Yellowstone County, there are both required and non-required court appearances for the defendant. At a required or mandatory appearance hearing, the defendant is required to appear in person before the court. Failing to appear at your required hearing may result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest by the judge.
Prosecutor in Yellowstone County
In Yellowstone County, the prosecutor is an attorney representing Yellowstone County. In some cases, the prosecutor may actually represent Montana. For the most part, the prosecutor in Yellowstone County has discretion to both decide whether to file charges and also negotiate a potential plea deal with the defendant.
Can I request a Plea Agreement?
In Yellowstone County you may be able to enter into a plea agreement depending upon the severity of the charges. It is also dependant upon the prosecution willing to accept a plea agreement. You can ask your attorney to attempt to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution to avoid having a jury trial along with the potential for a more serious sentence. Approximately 9 out of 10 criminal cases usually end in a plea agreement.
Right to Jury Trial
For “Serious Crimes”, those that can have a potential penalty of 6 months in jail OR a minimum $500 penalty, the US Constitution guarantees a right to trial by jury. This is guaranteed by Article III of the Constitution and the 6th Amendment. The accused has the ability to waive their right to trial by jury.
What happens in Yellowstone County at an arraignment?
In Yellowstone 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.
Yellowstone County Criminal Court locations
Criminal proceedings take place in the Yellowstone County Criminal Courts. A list of the criminal courts are located here.
Where can I get help for my Yellowstone County criminal case?
The 6th amendment of the United States Constitution provides a criminal defendant with the right to an attorney. As read in the miranda rights, this means that if a defendant cannot afford to hire a private attorney a legal attorney will be appointed to the defendant to represent him at no cost to the defendant. This is often a public defender. In addition, the court clerk for Yellowstone County will also be able to provide general information about a specific criminal case. The clerk can only provide information and is not an attorney so they cannot provide legal advice, only a licensed attorney can provide legal advice about what the best options for are for your particular case.
The Right to Counsel
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.s. Constitution give defendants in criminal cases the right to counsel/attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to represent you. Like other rights a defendant has, this one can be waived as well and alternatively you can choose to represent yourself.
Appealing a Criminal Conviciton
A defendant may appeal a criminal conviction to an appellate court. In an appeal, the actual trial is not redone, but the appellate court hears arguments that the criminal case was not handled in a legal manner at the original criminal court. The appellate court can either uphold the conviction, or determine that errors were made and may request a retrial, a resentencing of the defendant or that the charges be dismissed.
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.
In a jury trial in Yellowstone 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.
At a sentence hearing the judge will inform the defendant of the sentence that will be imposed. This sometimes occurs at the same hearing in which the defendant is found guilty (either by trial or plea agreement). In can also occur at a later date, most often this is due to the complexity of the case where more time is needed to determine the appropriate sentence.
Yellowstone County Criminal Court Locations
Yellowstone County District Court – 13th Judicial District
Address: 217 North 27th Street, PO Box 35030, Billings, MT 59107
Phone: 406-256-2851 (Civil) Fax: 406-256-2995
Yellowstone County Justice Court
Address: 217 North 27th Street, PO Box 603, Billings, MT 59101
Phone: 406-256-2896 Fax: 406-256-2898
Laurel City Court
Address: 115 West 1st Street, PO Box 10, Laurel, MT 59044
Phone: 406-628-1964 Fax: 406-628-4857
Billings Municipal Court
Address: 220 North 27th Street, PO Box 1178, Billings, MT 59103
Phone: 406-657-8490 Fax: 406-657-3075