Youth Court

About Youth Court

Under the Montana Youth Court Act, the Youth Court juvenile probation is a mandated function of the Montana state government, under the Montana Supreme Court as directed by the district court judge of the respective judicial district. The twentieth Judicial District Youth Court encompasses Lake and Sanders counties. Juveniles usually enter the juvenile justice system through contact with law enforcement, although they may be referred to juvenile probation by other agencies and parents. Juvenile probation is an integral part of the youth court and is overseen by the youth court judge within each of the 22 judicial districts. Most referrals to Youth Court's Juvenile Probation Office are in the form of a ticket accompanied by a report from law enforcement. Juvenile probation officers may handle any referral except traffic and fish and game violations, which fall under the jurisdiction of the justice, municipal, city, and district courts. The Youth Court juvenile probation system is designed to keep youth out of the deep end of the criminal justice system. It also is effective in helping the district/ youth courts from becoming over-burdened with relatively minor offenses that can be handled more swiftly by juvenile probation through the informal process.

Informal Process

Youth Court makes every effort whenever possible to keep a youth within the informal involvement process. Generally, status offenses are more likely addressed informally than criminal offenses. The informal progress may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Informal Probation Agreement (Community Service, Written Essays, Letters Of Apology, Restitution, Counseling, Etc.)
  • Initial Letter Of Warning
  • Verbal Warning
  • Diversion /Deferred Disposition ( Holding The Case Open Until The Youth Meets Predetermined Conditions)

For additional information on informal court process MCA 41-5-1304

Formal Process

Some youth may not be appropriate for informal involvement, or may not have been successful at the informal level. If this is the case, the youth must go through a formal court process, where a district court judge will determine whether they are placed on formal probation and what the terms of probation are. The more severe the offense, the more likely it will need to be processed through formal court.

For more information on formal court process MCA 41-5-1401