Community Services

Youth Court

Introductory Information

Youth become involved in the Youth Court system by receiving a citation/ticket by law enforcement. Depending on the type of citation, severity of offense, and the individual situation, Youth Court can proceed in a variety of ways. Here we describe the different levels of Youth Court involvement.

Eligibility

There are two categories of tickets/citations: status offense and criminal offense.

A status offense is an act by a youth under the age of 18 (and in some cases 21) which would not be a crime if committed by an adult. These include truancy, illegal possession of alcohol, runaway, and ungovernable. 

A criminal offense is an act by a youth which is a crime for adults. Some examples are assault, theft, property destruction, and criminal mischief. Visit Law Enforcement for more information.

If a ticket is issued, it is referred to Youth Court, who assigns the youth to a probation officer and sends a “notice to appear” to the youth and parent. This initial meeting is called an intake hearing, which begins the informal involvement process.  

Lewis and Clark County Juvenile Probation and Parole

(406) 447-8228

Lewis and Clark County Attorney's Office

(406) 447-8221

Informal Involvement

Youth Court makes every effort to keep a youth within the informal involvement process. Generally, status offenses are more likely to keep a youth informally involved than criminal offenses. Informal involvement may include:

  • Informal probation agreement (community service, written essays, letters of apology, restitution, counseling, etc.)
  • Initial letter of warning
  • Verbal warning
  • Deferred disposition (holding the case open until youth meets predetermined conditions)

Formal Involvement

Some youth may not be appropriate for informal involvement, or may have not been successful at the informal level. If this is the case, youth must go through a formal court process, where a 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 the formal court process, please visit the Montana Judicial Branch.

Services and Resources

Youth Court has the ability to offer services and resources throughout informal and formal involvement, though specific resources will vary depending on the youth’s level of involvement and needs. Possible resources include referral to mental health services, shelter care, therapeutic group home placement, and community supervision programs such as home arrest.