Know Your Rights
Find basic information about Montana crime victims' rights. Not all rights apply in every case and some additional rights may apply to your case. Your rights vary depending on your situation.
Montana Crime Victims' Rights
The right to notice means the right to be told what your rights are and to be told about important events during the criminal justice process. An example of an important event may be the entry of a plea or the time of a sentencing hearing. Notice is important because if a victim does not know what their rights are or when important events are taking place they cannot participate. If a victim cannot participate their rights have been violated. The right to notice depends on the crime that was charged and your connection to the crime. You might need help from a lawyer to determine your specific rights or you can read more about what notice you have a right to.
The right to information means the right to be generally informed about the criminal case and to be provided information about resources available to you.
Law Enforcement is required to ensure you are supplied with a victims' rights packet, which includes information on your crime victims' rights, the criminal justice process, your role in the process, how to apply for Crime Victim Compensation, and how to get help from government and community based programs.
Law Enforcement must give you the name and contact information for the investigating officer and the prosecuting attorney that have been assigned to your case.
As a general rule, the public can request access to initial police reports – including recordings of calls to dispatch, initial arrest reports, bail records, and daily jail rosters. Victims may have a right to additional documents related to the investigation of the crime, so long as it does not endanger the investigation. This information is called Confidential Criminal Justice Information. The prosecutor handling your case decides whether or not you can have access to Confidential Criminal Justice Information. If a prosecutor denies you access to Confidential Criminal Justice Information you can file a lawsuit to force the prosecutor to present the documents to a judge to decide if you should have access to the information.
You have a right to one copy of every public document filed in the court file at no cost. The court file does not include investigation documents.
You have a right to keep personal information confidential. You can request that your address, telephone number, and place of employment or the address, telephone number and place of employment of your family member be kept confidential. This information will only be disclosed to a criminal justice agency unless a court orders otherwise. This means that your information will be taken out of records that are requested by the public.
You do not have to disclose your address or place of employment in response to questions asked in court unless the court deems it necessary and instructs you to provide the information.
If you are the victim of a sexual offense (rape, sexual assault, incest, or indecent exposure) your identity may not be disclosed to the public unless disclosure is necessary for a law enforcement purpose or ordered by the court. However, the location of the crime scene may be disclosed and your identity may be figured out by that location.
Victims can also apply to enroll in Montana's Address Confidentiality Program which provides victims with a substitute address, to help stay safe.
A victim or the victim’s immediate family cannot be disciplined or fired for participating in criminal proceedings at the prosecutor’s request.
A victims' rights attorney, prosecutor, or victim/witness specialist may be able to help inform your school of potential absences and the need for accommodations.
A victims' rights attorney, prosecutor, or victim/witness specialist may be able to help inform your creditors of financial strain caused by your victimization.
You and your family have the right to be present. You and your family cannot be excluded from the courtroom during trial unless the judge specifically orders it. If you need an interpreter you can ask the court to provide one.
You have the right to meet with the prosecutor to discuss the dismissal of the case, the release of the accused before trial, plea negotiations, and any proposal that would remove the case from court proceedings (pre-trial diversion programs).
You have a right to give a victim impact statement, which the judge will consider for sentencing. A victim impact statement is your opportunity to let the court and the perpetrator know how the crime affected you. Your statement can cover what happened, the way it happened and what you think is an appropriate sentence. You can give your statement in writing before or at sentencing. You can have an advocate read your statement at court, or you can give your statement orally under oath at the sentencing hearing. You have a right to make a statement if the offender requests a waiver of restitution.
You have the right to make a statement to the Parole Board. You can present statements in person, by letter, or by video. Your statement can describe the impact of the crime on your life, what happened, how the crime happened, and whether of not you think the offender should be paroled. The Parole Board must consider your statement in making their decision. You may ask for your statement to be kept confidential.
You have the right to provide your opinion on the disposal of evidence, to get your belongings back or request evidence (such as police photos of injuries) be destroyed. When the court and law enforcement no longer need the evidence that was collected, the prosecutor may request the destruction or release of the evidence. You can tell the court your opinion about the destruction, distribution or further use of the evidence and the court must consider your statement in making their decision.
Restitution is the offender’s debt to the victim for losses caused the crime. The Judge can order restitution for expenses such as medical and dental bills, mental health counseling, stolen or damaged property, lost wages, travel and relocation costs, future expenses related to the crime, and funeral costs for homicide victims. Keeping copies of bills and receipts of all expenses related to the crime can help the court determine the amount of your loss. You can give copies of these bills and receipts to the prosecuting attorney in charge of your case. Learn more about Restitution.
You may also be able to apply for Crime Victim Compensation before the offender is convicted. Crime Victim Compensation helps victims with some expenses resulting from a crime. CVC includes victims and some family members of physical or sexual violence, or family members of homicide victims. Learn more about Crime Victim Compensation.
As a crime victim, you have a right to information on the services available to protect you from intimidation, including information on obtaining a protective order from the court. Law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys must provide you with this information.
Learn more about keeping yourself safe.
Learn more about obtaining an Order of Protection in Montana.
If you are the victim of a sexual offense, you have a right to request that a sentencing order or condition of release (probation or parole) that prevents the convicted person from having any contact with you.
Laws in Montana pertaining to victims’ right are under Title 46, Chapter 24 of the Montana Code Annotated (MCA). You can find those laws here:
Montana Department of Justice has information regarding how Montana law applies to rape examinations, address confidentiality, Hope Cards, orders of protection, and more. You can find that information here: Montana DOJ Office of Victim Services or call the Office of Victim Services at 800-498-6455 or 406-442-2174.
Montana Department of Corrections has information regarding safety, notification, felony sentencing, restitution, parole, Crime Victims Compensation fund, and more. You can find that information here: or call the victim services line at 888-223-6332 or 406-444-0447.
Additionally, The National Crime Victim Law Institute has crime victim rights information and resources for crime victims and professionals. You can find those resources here: National Crime Victim Law Institute.
If you need more assistance, you can apply for services through the Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) Victim Legal Assistance Network. You can apply to MLSA via online or telephone at: or 800-666-6899.
If you qualify for assistance through MLSA - Victim Legal Assistance Network, you may receive services such as advice appointments, written information regarding your legal help, or volunteer attorney assistance. Everything you tell MLSA is kept private and confidential.
If you are looking for other resources besides legal help from MLSA, use the Help Tool or search in the Resources for additional information.