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What Are The Montana Rules of Criminal Procedure?

April 10, 2019 |

So what happens when personal injury involves criminal activity? Every state upholds various codes and laws for criminal procedures. When an individual commits a crime, the state presses charges against the individual. Victims of crime may pursue civil claims for damages. A criminal case punishes wrongdoing and crimes against society, but it will not provide any recovery for victims of those acts. All Montana residents should have a working knowledge of the rules for criminal procedure in Montana.

Arrest Warrant or Summons

The criminal procedure in Montana begins with an arrest, an arrest warrant, or a summons. If the police catch an individual in the act of committing a crime, they will make an arrest and take the suspect to the appropriate police station or precinct for booking. During this time, the suspect will have a mugshot taken, submit fingerprints, and remain in lockup until release. If the police learn of a crime but did not immediately arrest the suspect, they will secure an arrest warrant. The police must locate the suspect, serve the warrant, and make an arrest.

Conditions of Release

Typically, an individual must remain in lockup until the date of his or her arraignment. However, a judge may allow a suspect to leave police custody under certain conditions. If the suspect has no prior criminal record or happens to be a prominent member of the community the judge may release the individual on his or her own recognizance. In this case, the judge is effectively trusting the individual to appear in court at the designated time and place for arraignment. For more serious crimes or for individuals with criminal records, the judge may set a bail amount to reflect the severity of the crime. For example, bail for petty theft may only be a few hundred dollars while bail for murder charges could be in the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.


The arraignment is the point at which the individual hears a formal reading of charges and has the opportunity to enter a plea. A “not guilty” verdict will lead to a trial, in which the prosecution must prove the suspect’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the suspect enters a guilty plea, the case proceeds to sentence. Other pleas such as a mute plea or no contest plea are other possibilities, but these pleas typically only arise in cases with related civil claims.

Preliminary Hearing and the Right to Counsel

A defendant charged with a crime has the right to demand a preliminary hearing within 30 days of arrest. The hearing must take place within 21 days of the demand unless the defendant subsequently waives the request for a hearing, the complaint has been dismissed, or the hearing must be postponed for any reason. The preliminary hearing allows a defendant to address an unjustifiable complaint instead of languishing in jail waiting for a trial by jury.

The Right to a Speedy Trial by Jury

American citizens have the right to a speedy trial by a jury of the defendant’s peers following an arrest and criminal charges from the state. Unnecessary delays could potentially lead to dismissal of charges if a judge determines the prosecution does not have enough evidence to move a case forward or the defendant has spent an unreasonable amount of time awaiting trial.

Motions, Verdicts, and Appeals

Either party in a criminal case can file different motions throughout a criminal case. For example, a defendant may file a motion to appeal a verdict, or a prosecutor could file a motion for summary judgment if a defendant fails to appear in court.

Once a judge delivers a verdict, a defendant may work toward appealing the decision with a higher court if he or she has reason to believe the verdict is unjust for any reason or for irregularities with the procedure of a case. Appealing a verdict can take quite a long time, but it could be the only way to escape a wrongful conviction. Contacting a Montana personal injury attorney is a fantastic resource for more information on the rules for criminal procedure following a personal injury case in Montana.