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Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Montana's purpose clause retains some elements of the Legislative Guide for Drafting Family and Juvenile Court Acts (1969) of the due process era.  It also mentions that youth are entitled to maintain ethnic, cultural, or religious heritage when removed from home, and the delinquency system "provides…competency development and community protection for youth before they become adult offenders," which meets criteria for BARJ.

MT ST §41-5-102

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and diversion decision is at the discretion of the juvenile court intake officer.

In Montana, when youth are taken into custody, a petition must be filed within 7 days. Once a complaint is received, the court juvenile probation officer or designated assessment officer (JPO) conducts the preliminary inquiry. The JPO may require investigation by other agencies (law enforcement or any state/local agency) or obtain subpoenas to meet with others. The JPO may require an extensive multi-disciplinary formal ‘youth assessment’ for youth alleged in need of intervention with certain priors, or any youth alleged delinquent or in need of intervention with consent of the youth and parent/s. The assessment may occur at home with or without electronic monitoring or in a staff-secure youth assessment center (if non-felonious). The assessment includes evaluations of general strengths and needs of the family and particular needs related to chemical dependency, education, mental health, and related services. If no further court action is necessary, the inquiry is terminated. Complainants and victims are notified that the decision not to file a petition may be reviewed by the DA.

If the JPO determines that court action is needed, but judicial handling is not necessary, an “informal disposition” is arranged. Informal dispositions can include unmonitored information and referral services, “informal adjustment” without probation or detention, or with consent of the youth and parent/s, the JPO may develop a ‘consent adjustment’ (without petition) agreement that includes probation and/or other dispositions. To qualify for consent adjustments, youth must admit to facts bringing the matter for referral, and when believed in need of intervention, is also beyond the control of adults/agency physically caring for the child. The judge must approve agreements related to felonious allegations or if the youth was/is/will be in a secure or non-secure placement. Consent adjustments without petitions are intended for first offense allegations, but exclusions and exceptions exist. The youth and parent/s must sign the agreement that may include terms and conditions imposed by JPO such as: probation, house arrest, 90-day confiscation of the driver’s license, counseling, community service, victim mediation, court costs, cost of victim counseling, placement (limited by type), and/or judge-approved restitution, etc.

When the JPO determines judicial intervention is needed, the matter is referred to the county attorney (DA) to prepare the petition or information. The DA must sign all petitions. When the DA applies to file a petition for delinquency or youth in need of intervention and it is determined there is probable cause that allegations are true, the JPO can permit filing the petition.

Once a petition is filed and before entering judgement, the court may suspend proceedings and continue the youth under JPO supervision when all parties agree to terms. The consent decree has no time limit other than a report from JPO every 6 months. Consent decrees involving juveniles with certain priors and petitions with felonious allegations must be recommended by the DA. Terms are similar to agreements without petition, but the youth must admit guilt and accept responsibility for their actions, and secure placement can go up to 10 days. Upon successful completion, the petition is dismissed.

No statutory time limit/s for court diversions exist.

In Montana, there are no statutory time limits, but consent decrees must be reviewed by the judge every 6 months.

Courtroom shackling, 2015

No statewide restriction

Competency, 2015

Montana has no statewide mandates specific to juvenile competency. A supreme court case mentions the occurrence of a juvenile competency hearing, and held that youth alleging incompetency based only on age (immaturity) are not similarly situated to adult criminal defendants alleging mental disease or defect. (Adult) criminal procedure provides that “a person…may not be tried, convicted, or sentenced for the commission of an(y) offense so long as the incapacity endures, which aligns with the Dusky standard.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


About this project

Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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