1999 Montana Legislature

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     Section 1.  Section 7-1-4124, MCA, is amended to read:

     "7-1-4124.  Powers. A municipality with general powers has the power, subject to the provisions of state law, to:

     (1)  enact ordinances and resolutions;

     (2)  sue and be sued;

     (3)  buy, sell, mortgage, rent, lease, hold, manage, or dispose of any interest in real or personal property;

     (4)  contract with persons, corporations, or any other governmental entity;

     (5)  pay debts and expenses;

     (6)  borrow money;

     (7)  solicit and accept bequests, donations, or grants of money, property, services, or other advantages and comply with any condition that is not contrary to the public interest;

     (8)  execute documents necessary to receive money, property, services, or other advantages from the state government, the federal government, or any other source;

     (9)  make grants and loans of money, property, and services for public purposes;

     (10) require the attendance of witnesses and production of documents relevant to matters being considered by the governing body;

     (11) hire, direct, and discharge employees and appoint and remove members of boards;

     (12) ratify any action of the municipality or its officers or employees which could have been approved in advance;

     (13) have a corporate seal and flag;

     (14) acquire by eminent domain as provided in Title 70, chapter 30, any interest in property to provide any service or facility authorized by law;

     (15) initiate a civil action to restrain or enjoin violation of an ordinance;

     (16) enter private property, obtaining warrants when necessary, for the purpose of enforcing ordinances that affect the general welfare and public safety;

     (17) conduct a census;

     (18) conduct inventories of public property and preparatory studies;

     (19) condemn and demolish hazardous structures;

     (20) purchase insurance and establish self-insurance plans;

     (21) impound animals and other private property creating a nuisance or obstructing a street or highway;

     (22) establish quarantines; and

     (23) classify all violations of city ordinances as civil infractions, with civil penalties, as provided in [section 2]; and

     (23)(24) exercise powers not inconsistent with law necessary for effective administration of authorized services and functions."

     Section 2.  Municipal infractions -- civil offense. (1) A municipal infraction is a civil offense punishable by a civil penalty of not more than $300 for each violation or if the infraction is a repeat offense, a civil penalty not to exceed $500 for each repeat violation.

     (2)  A municipality may by ordinance provide that a violation of an ordinance is a municipal infraction.

     (3)  A municipality may not provide that a violation of an ordinance is a municipal infraction if the violation is a criminal offense under state law.

     (4)  An officer who is authorized by a municipality to enforce a municipal code or regulation may issue a civil citation to a person who commits a municipal infraction. The citation may be served by personal service, by certified mail addressed to the defendant at the defendant's last known mailing address, return receipt requested, or by publication, as provided in Rule 4D(5), M.R.Civ.P. A copy of the citation must be retained by the issuing officer and one copy must be sent to the clerk of the municipal or city court. The citation must serve as notification that a municipal infraction has been committed and must contain the following information:

     (a)  the name and address of the defendant;

     (b)  the name or description of the infraction attested to by the officer issuing the citation;

     (c)  the location and time of the infraction;

     (d)  the amount of civil penalty to be assessed or the alternate relief sought, or both;

     (e)  the manner, location, and time in which the penalty may be paid;

     (f)  the time and place of court appearance; and

     (g)  the penalty for failure to appear in court.

     Section 3.  Municipal infractions -- proceedings. (1) In municipal infraction proceedings:

     (a)  the matter must be tried before a municipal court judge or city court judge in the same manner as a small claim if the total amount of civil penalties does not exceed $3,000. The matter may only be tried before a judge in district court if the total amount of civil penalties assessed exceeds $3,000.

     (b)  the city has the burden of proof that the municipal infraction occurred and that the defendant committed the infraction. The proof must be by clear and convincing evidence.

     (c)  the court shall ensure that the defendant has received a copy of the charges and that the defendant understands the charges. The defendant may question all witnesses who appear for the municipality and produce evidence or witnesses on the defendant's behalf.

     (d)  the defendant may be represented by counsel of the defendant's own choosing and at the defendant's own expense;

     (e)  the defendant may answer by admitting or denying the infraction;

     (f)  if a municipal infraction is proven, the court shall enter a judgment against the defendant. If the infraction is not proven, the court shall dismiss the charges. Each day that a violation occurs or is permitted to exist by the defendant constitutes a separate infraction.

     (2)  All penalties or forfeitures collected by the court for municipal infractions must be remitted to the municipality in the same manner as fines and forfeitures collected for criminal offenses. If the person named in the citation is served as provided in [section 2] and fails without good cause to appear in response to the civil citation, judgment must be entered against the person.

     (3)  A person against whom judgment is entered shall pay court costs and fees as in small claims court under Title 25, chapter 35. If the action is dismissed by the court, the municipality is liable for the court costs and court fees.

     (4)  Seeking a civil penalty as authorized in this section does not preclude a municipality from seeking alternative relief from the court in the same action.

     (5)  When judgment has been entered against a defendant, the court may do any of the following:

     (a)  impose a civil penalty by entry of a judgment against the defendant;

     (b)  direct that payment of the civil penalty be suspended or deferred under conditions imposed by the court;

     (c)  grant appropriate alternative relief ordering the defendant to abate or cease the violation;

     (d)  authorize the municipality to abate or correct the violation;

     (e)  order that the municipality's costs for abatement or correction of the violation be entered as a judgment against the defendant or assessed against the property where the violation occurred, or both.

     (6)  If a defendant willfully violates the terms of an order imposed by the court, the failure is contempt.

     Section 4.  Municipal infractions -- jurisdiction -- appeal. (1) A municipal court judge or city court judge has jurisdiction to assess or enter judgment for costs of abatement or correction in any amount not to exceed the jurisdictional amount for a money judgment in a civil action pursuant to 3-11-103. If the municipality seeks abatement or correction costs in excess of that amount, the matter must be referred to the district court for hearing and entry of an appropriate order. The procedure for hearing in the district court shall be the same procedure as that for a small claims appealed under 25-35-803.

     (2)  The defendant or the municipality may file a motion for a new trial or may appeal the decision to district court. A factual determination made by the trial court, supported by substantial evidence as shown in the record, is binding for purposes of appeal relating to the violation at issue, but is not admissible or binding as to any future violations for the same or similar ordinance provision by the same defendant.

     (3)  Except for willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the municipality, the issuance of a civil citation for a municipal infraction or the ensuing court proceedings do not provide an action for false arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution.

     (4)  An action brought pursuant to this section for a municipal infraction that is an environmental violation does not preclude, and is in addition to, any other enforcement action that may be brought under state law.

     Section 5.  Codification instruction. [Sections 2 through 4] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 7, chapter 1, part 41, and the provisions of Title 7, chapter 1, part 41, apply to [sections 2 through 4].

- END -

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