Montana Domestic Violence Laws

Learn about PFMA charges and other domestic violence offenses in Montana.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 6/13/2024

In Montana, a person who commits domestic violence can face arrest, jail time, restraining orders, and firearm restrictions. This article provides an overview for anyone who's been accused of domestic violence or is interested in understanding the law. Read on to learn how Montana addresses domestic violence, what crimes qualify as domestic violence, and the penalties and consequences for harming a partner or family member.

What Is Domestic Violence in Montana?

Montana's laws refer to domestic violence as acts of violence or threats against "partners or family members."

Partners include current and former spouses, persons with a child in common, and current or former dating or intimate partners.

Family members include mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, and other past or present family members of a household, such as in-laws and step-relations. They can be related by blood, adoption, marriage, or remarriage.

Orders of Protection

A victim who experiences violence or threats from a partner or household member qualifies for a court order of protection to stop the violence. Acts of violence and threats can include assault, intimidation, strangulation, unlawful restraint, or sexual assault or abuse, among other crimes. A victim who reasonably fears bodily harm by a partner or family member is also eligible for the protection order.

Victims go to civil court to petition (ask) the judge for an order of protection. A violation is a criminal offense (see below).

Partner or Family Member Assault (PFMA)

Montana has several crimes specific to violence against a partner or family member. The main domestic violence offense in Montana is "partner or family member assault" (PFMA). Montana takes PFMA charges and convictions seriously, with increased protections for victims and consequences for offenders.

(Mont. Code §§ 40-15-102, 45-5-206 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for PFMA Charges in Montana?

A person commits partner or family member assault by:

  • purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury to a partner or family member
  • negligently causing bodily injury to a partner or family member with a weapon, or
  • purposely or knowingly causing a partner or family member to fear bodily injury.

Penalties for PFMA depend on whether a defendant has prior convictions for PFMA or similar crimes committed against a partner or family member.

Misdemeanor Penalties for PFMA

A first or second conviction for PFMA is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. A first conviction carries a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a minimum fine of $100. The minimums for a second conviction increase to 72 hours of jail time and a $300 fine.

Felony Penalties for PFMA

Third and subsequent convictions are felonies. A judge must order at least a 30-day jail sentence and up to 5 years of prison time. Fines can range from $500 to $50,000.

Counseling Requirements for PFMA

The law requires defendants convicted of PFMA to pay for and complete a counseling assessment focused on violence, controlling behavior, dangerousness, and chemical dependency, plus complete any recommended treatment.

Other Assault Crimes

While not limited to assaults against partners or family members, offenders who inflict serious bodily injuries on another or commit assault with a deadly weapon can face felony sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

(Mont. Code §§ 45-5-202, 45-5-206, 45-5-213 (2024).)

What Other Types of Domestic Violence Charges Can Be Brought in Montana?

PFMA is the main domestic violence charge in Montana. But domestic violence can take many forms. An offender could be charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, or intimidation, to name a few. Montana law also has several crimes with penalties specific to partner or family member violence, discussed next.

Strangulation of a Partner or Family Member

Montana makes strangulation of a partner or family member a felony offense. The law defines strangulation as knowingly impeding another's breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to their throat or neck or blocking their nose or mouth.

A first conviction carries up to 5 years of prison time and a $50,000 fine. Repeat convictions for strangulation have a minimum 2-year prison sentence and up to 20 years. An offender must also complete a counseling assessment (see PFMA).

(Mont. Code § 45-5-215 (2024).)

Violating an Order of Protection

If an offender is subject to an order of protection, violating its terms can result in a conviction. For a first offense, an offender faces up to 6 months of jail time, plus fines. Second offenses come with a minimum of 24 hours of jail time. Third and subsequent offenses are felonies and carry a minimum of 10 days behind bars and a maximum 2-year sentence.

(Mont. Code § 45-5-626 (2024).)

Stalking Offenses

Most first-time stalking offenses carry misdemeanor penalties in Montana. However, if a stalking offense violates an order of protection, the penalty for a first offense increases to a potential 5-year felony.

(Mont. Code § 45-5-220 (2024).)

Arrest, Bail, and Firearm Restrictions for Domestic Violence Charges in Montana

Montana, like many other states, imposes certain arrest, bail, and firearm policies and restrictions in domestic violence cases for the protection of the victim.

Arrests for PFMA and Domestic Violence Calls

Montana law states that arrest is the preferred response to domestic violence calls involving injuries, weapons, protection order violations, or imminent danger.

(Mont. Code § 46-6-311 (2024).)

Bail in PFMA and Domestic Violence Cases

Defendants arrested for committing a crime against a partner or family member must generally go in front of a judge before being released. The judge must set bail and pretrial release conditions aimed at preventing a defendant from harming the victim or others.

For instance, the judge may issue a standing no-contact order in PFMA and other domestic violence cases. The no-contact order can prohibit the defendant from contacting the victim and impose geographic restrictions. If the defendant faces felony charges or repeat charges for PFMA, the judge must order electronic monitoring of the defendant (if available).

(Mont. Code §§ 46-9-108, 46-9-302 (2024).)

Firearm Restrictions in PFMA and Domestic Violence Cases

Defendants arrested, charged, or convicted of certain partner or family member crimes can lose their right to possess a firearm.

Arrest. Montana law requires police responding to a domestic assault call to seize any weapon used or threatened in the alleged assault.

Bail. As a condition of bail, a judge can order the defendant not to possess a firearm.

Conviction. State and federal laws prohibit firearm possession upon most felony and certain misdemeanor convictions involving domestic violence. If an offender used a firearm in a PFMA, the court can prohibit the defendant's possession of the firearm.

(Mont. Code §§ 45-5-206, 46-6-603, 46-9-108 (2024); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2024).)

Talk to an Attorney

If you face criminal charges or were served with a protection order, contact a criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can help you understand what's at stake and protect your rights.

Talk to a Defense attorney
We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you