Montana Domestic Violence
Montana’s domestic violence laws provide robust protections for partners and family members and contain severe penalties for offenders convicted of crimes against these protected individuals. If you are facing criminal charges for assault against a partner or family member in Montana, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime and your criminal history, you could end up serving a lengthy prison sentence and paying tens of thousands of dollars in fines, among other severe consequences. The very first thing you should do after being arrested for domestic violence in Montana is to contact a competent Montana domestic violence defense attorney, even if you have not yet been charged. The repercussions of a Montana domestic assault conviction are far-reaching and long-lasting, and you don’t want to leave the outcome of your case up to chance.
Montana Domestic Violence Law
Defendants accused of committing acts of domestic violence in Montana are typically charged and prosecuted under Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-206, Partner or Family Member Assault. According to this statute, a person commits the crime of partner or family member assault if he or she:
- Purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to a partner or family member,
- Negligently causes bodily injury to a partner or family member with a weapon, or
- Purposely or knowingly causes a partner or family member to reasonably fear bodily injury.
A related criminal offense is Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-215, or Strangulation of Partner or Family Member, which occurs when a person purposely or knowingly strangles or suffocates a partner or family member. For the purposes of Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45-5-206 and 45-5-215, the term “partners” refers to spouses, former spouses, people who have a child in common and people who have been or currently are involved in a dating or ongoing intimate relationship. The term “family member” under Montana law refers to parents, children, siblings and other past or present family members of a household, including stepparents and stepchildren, adoptive children and parents, and in-laws.
Domestic Violence Orders of Protection
Montana law allows victims of domestic violence to petition the court for an order of protection against the person accused of committing the act of violence (Mont. Code Ann. § 40-15-201). If you have an order of protection against you, you may be ordered to: refrain from committing acts of violence against the petitioner, leave your shared residence, complete violence counseling and provide for the safety and welfare of the petitioner. Violation of an order of protection is a crime in Montana, carrying a possible penalty of imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months and/or a fine of up to $500 for a first offense. A conviction for a second offense of violating a protective order carries a possible penalty of imprisonment in the county jail for no less than 24 hours nor more than six months and a fine of not less than $200 nor more than $500. A conviction for a third or subsequent offense comes with a possible penalty of imprisonment in the county jail or state prison for no less than 10 days nor more than two years and a fine of no less than $500 nor more than $2,000 (Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-626).
Montana No-Contact Orders
The court may also issue a standing no-contact order against a defendant arrested for or charged with assault or strangulation of a partner or family member in Montana (Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-209). A no-contact order is intended to protect the safety of the alleged victim or his or her children and may order you to refrain from contacting the protected person or going within 1,500 feet of the person. Montana no-contact orders are strict, and if you are accused of violating an order, even if you had the consent of the protected person, each contact or attempt to make contact can be charged as a separate offense. If you are convicted on charges of violating a no-contact order, you face a possible penalty of imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, a fine of up to $500, or both.
Penalties for Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45-5-206 and 45-5-215
If you are found guilty of assault against a partner or family member under Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-206, you could face a penalty consisting of imprisonment in the county jail for at least 24 hours and up to one year, plus a fine of up to $100 and misdemeanor probation for a first offense. As a second offense, assault against a partner or family member is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for at least 72 hours and up to one year, plus a fine of up to $1,000 and misdemeanor probation. Upon conviction for a third or subsequent offense of assault against a partner or family member, you could face imprisonment in the county jail or state prison for at least 30 days and up to five years, plus a fine of up to $50,000.
In addition to a lengthy jail or prison sentence, probation and substantial fines, the court may impose other penalties upon convicted offenders pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-206. For instance, any person found guilty of partner or family member assault in Montana is required to complete a counseling assessment focused on violence, chemical dependency and controlling behavior, in order to assess the offender’s need for domestic violence counseling and treatment. The offender may also be required to pay restitution to the alleged victim of the assault to cover medical, wage loss, housing and counseling costs. If a firearm was used in the assault offense, the court may also prohibit the offender from possession or use of the firearm.
If you are found guilty of the more serious crime of strangling a partner or family member under Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-215, you may be sentenced to a term of five years in state prison and/or fined up to $50,000 for a first offense. If you have one or more prior convictions under Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-215, a new conviction carries a possible penalty of at least two years and up to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $50,000. You may also be required to pay for and complete a domestic violence counseling assessment under this law.
Contact a Montana Domestic Violence Lawyer
A Montana domestic violence charge can follow you for the rest of your life. If you are convicted on charges of assault against a partner or family member, you will carry the stigma of an abuser with you even after you have served your sentence. To improve your chances of avoiding a devastating domestic assault conviction in Montana, contact a reputable Montana domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible.