Fight Traffic Ticket in Montana
To fight your MT traffic ticket, you'll need to submit a "not guilty" plea before the deadline date your traffic ticket and appear in court.
Check your traffic ticket for specific details or contact the appropriate traffic court.
Fighting a traffic ticket can be an especially stressful experience—especially if you've never had to contest your citation in court before.
This guide will help you determine your best course of action, and how to go about fighting your Montana traffic ticket.
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)
- Pay the fine.
- Incur points on your driving record (could lead to license suspension/revocation).
- Possibly incur increase on auto insurance rates.
Learn more about
paying your traffic ticket »
(Plead Not Guilty)
- Contest traffic ticket via trial.
- Choose to represent yourself or hire an attorney.
- Possibly lose option to plea bargain for lesser penalties.
- No penalties if found guilty, but must pay court/attorney fees.
Learn more by reading below.
Determine Whether to Fight Your Ticket
You have a couple plea options in Montana:
- Not guilty.
Before deciding to contest a Montana traffic ticket, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you believe you have legal proof to contest the ticket and, if so, can you properly present that proof if you attempt to contest your ticket?
- Will the ticket add points to your driver record?
- If so, will those additional points push you toward a license suspension or other consequences?
- Do you have the time to devote to a court appearance (or perhaps multiple appearances), even with an attorney's help?
- Could you face jail time?
- Jail time is usually reserved for serious violations such as DUI/DWI.
These questions can help you determine whether to move forward with contesting your Montana citation, or whether paying your traffic ticket is a better course of action.
Pleading Not Guilty in Montana
If you choose to plead not guilty to a traffic violation, you accept your right to stand before a judge and contest the charge.
To fight a MT traffic ticket, you'll need to:
- Appear at the court in the city where you received the traffic violation on or before the date listed on your ticket; this initial court appearance is called an arraignment.
- If you need to reschedule your arraignment, call the specific Montana city court location where you're scheduled to appear.
- When asked how you plead, say not guilty.
- This is NOT the time to present evidence or argue your case; it's simply a signal of intent to return to court at a later date to formally contest your traffic ticket.
When you complete the steps above, the court will assign you dates to return for a pretrial hearing AND an official court hearing. If you miss any court dates, your license could be suspended and/or a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
Also, a bond could be taken out in your name to guarantee your return to court. If you lose your case, the bond can be put toward the fines you owe.
Fighting Your Ticket in Court
Contesting your MT traffic ticket could consist of the following steps:
- Pretrial hearing.
- Official court hearing.
The first step to fighting your Montana traffic ticket in court is to attend the pretrial hearing on the date assigned to you in arraignment.
At the pretrial hearing, you may have the opportunity to talk to the prosecutor to work out a pretrial agreement. A pretrial agreement usually means you choose to plead guilty, or no contest, to the traffic charges in exchange for a lighter punishment.
If you accept a pretrial agreement, you:
- Must meet with the judge prior to your official court date to notify them of your plea change.
- Won't have to appear for your future, official court hearing and argue your case since you're no longer pleading not guilty.
- Need to comply with the penalties agreed upon in your meeting with the city prosecutor/attorney.
Don't forget—once you plead guilty or no contest, your auto insurance rates may GO UP! To make sure you are properly covered and not paying too much, check out our guide on how traffic violations affect car insurance rates.
Official Court Hearing
If you don't accept a pretrial agreement during the pretrial hearing, you'll need to reappear in court and argue your case for why you're not guilty of the traffic citation(s) you received.
If you don't already have an attorney, some city courts will assign you one, but it's up to the city and not the state.
FOR EXAMPLE: In Helena, prior to your court date, you'll receive contact information for your assigned public defender if your charges could result in jail time. To learn more about hiring an attorney, take a look at our page When to Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer.
Before your court date, make sure you've gathered ample evidence and, if applicable, your witnesses are available for the trial. If you're having trouble organizing your case, you may want to consider hiring an attorney if you haven't already.
Consequences of Fighting Your Traffic Ticket
The consequences of fighting your Montana traffic ticket can vary, with both positive AND negative possible outcomes.
What If I Lose?
Depending on the traffic charges brought against you, the penalties you'll face upon conviction could be any of the following:
The convictions and corresponding driver's license points will go on your driving record, possibly resulting in higher insurance rates.
NOTE: Commercial drivers must notify their employers within 30 days of being convicted, regardless of the vehicle being driven when the ticket was issued.
Knowing what's on your driving record is like knowing what's on your credit report. It can influence how much you pay for auto insurance and affect potential employment opportunities. For more information, jump over to our page on Montana Driving Records.
What If I Win?
Fighting your MT traffic ticket might just be worth it, because if you win your case:
- The charges against you are dropped.
- No points or convictions are added to your driving record.
- You won't have to endure any penalties.
- Your insurance rates won't go up.
And remember—a traffic ticket lawyer can often be your best chance for ensuring a winning outcome to your contestation.