Missoula County Attorney
The prosecutors in the Criminal Division of the Missoula County Attorney's Office are responsible for the prosecution of all felony sexual crimes that occur anywhere within Missoula County, as well as all misdemeanor sexual crimes that occur outside the city limits of Missoula. These cases primarily include referrals from the Missoula County Sheriff, the Missoula City Police Department or other law enforcement agencies. In addition, the Criminal Division handles the prosecution of all persons under the age of 18 in Youth Court.
Whether a sexual crime is a felony or a misdemeanor depends on a multitude of factors and the evidence that is developed in the case. Each case is unique and requires thorough, legal analysis after completion of the investigation by law enforcement. A misdemeanor is a less serious offense; a felony is a more serious offense. Both can include incarceration; probation; community-based rehabilitative programs; requirements for mental health, anger management and/or sexual offender counseling; chemical dependency treatment; community service; fines and other conditions. Felony cases also can include sexual or violent offender registration.
The Missoula County Attorney's Office is committed to helping victims through the criminal justice system. Missoula County prosecutors work closely with Crime Victim Advocates to keep victims apprised of the status of their cases, answer questions and help victims understand the criminal justice system. Victims are welcome to contact the prosecutor assigned to their case at any time.
THE LEGAL PROCESS
After an investigation is complete or an arrest made, the prosecutor assigned to the case will evaluate the case and make a decision about whether to charge the offender, and if so what charge(s) will be filed.
When a case is charged, the prosecutor on the case will attempt to contact the victim, either directly or through a Crime Victim Advocate. If the victim does not have an advocate, the CVA office will be contacted if the victim so wishes.
The prosecutor will consult with victims, and consider their wishes, in attempting to resolve a case with a plea agreement. Plea agreements are reached in most cases. In addition, the presiding judge will consider the wishes of the victim(s) in deciding whether to accept or reject a plea agreement. If a plea agreement is rejected, the offender may accept the sentence the judge wishes to impose or withdraw his or her guilty plea and proceed to trial.
If a defendant enters a guilty plea or is convicted at trial, the court will order the preparation of a pre-sentence report and recommendation for sentencing. A probation officer will investigate the circumstances of the offense and the defendant's background, and will ask the victim(s) for a statement as to how the crime affected her or him and what her or his recommendation for sentencing would be. If the victim desires, there also will be an opportunity to address the court at the sentencing hearing before sentence is imposed.
If a case goes to trial, the victim will be thoroughly prepared for the experience by the prosecutor with the help of a Crime Victim Advocate and/or the primary investigator. Pretrial preparation includes an explanation of legal protections available to victims, evidentiary issues that may arise, what to expect on cross-examination and how supporters can best help a victim who is participating in the trial process. A victim's supporters can also participate in pretrial preparation. Victims can insist that the prosecutor be present during any pretrial interviews with defense attorneys.