Community Services

Law Enforcement

Introductory Information

Law enforcement responds to youth in crisis in a variety of ways. This may include providing support and stabilization, giving a verbal warning, transporting youth to the Emergency Room, writing a ticket, or placing a youth in detention. Law enforcement may also make a report to Child and Family Services if they suspect child abuse and neglect. Law enforcement responses will vary based on the discretion of the officer, and the volume and severity of other calls and incidents at the time.  Here we describe what each of these responses may look like.


You may reach law enforcement by calling 9-1-1, calling the police station, or going to the police station. Any time you would like an officer to physically respond, calling 9-1-1 is the best option. The responding department depends on the address and location within the county.

Call law enforcement for help if you are worried about physical safety of the youth or others. Whenever possible, try other interventions first. Remember that the priority for law enforcement is to establish safety as quickly as possible.

Support and Stabilization

Law enforcement may provide support and establish safety with their presence alone. Give them as much information as possible about what is happening, what you have tried, and what you need from them. 

Emergency Room & Evaluation

Law enforcement may take the youth to the Emergency Room for evaluation if they are at risk of serious injury to themselves or others due to mental health issues, or if they are expressing thoughts of committing suicide.

Police may also give a parent West House contact information for a Youth Crisis Diversion referral, or call West House directly for assessment and placement referral. See Crisis Services for more information.

Citation & Detention

If a youth commits a crime, the officer may ticket the youth and in some cases place them in detention. There are two categories of tickets/citations: status offenses and criminal offenses. Criminal offenses are more likely to result in serious legal consequences, though repeated status offenses will also get the youth involved in the legal system.

Status Offense

A status offense is an act by a youth under the age of 18 (and in some cases 21) which would not be a crime if committed by an adult. These include truancy, illegal possession of alcohol, runaway, and ungovernable. 

If a ticket is issued, it goes to Youth Court and a Youth Court officer will contact the parent to follow up. If a citation is not issued, a law enforcement officer may try to contact the parent to explain why, though this is less likely to occur if it is a minor offense.

Criminal Offense

A criminal offense is an act by a youth which is a crime for adults. Some examples are assault, theft, property destruction, and criminal mischief.

If a youth commits an assault on a family member (Partner or Family Member Assault: PFMA), they will most likely go to detention. If a youth is at risk of assault and the officer cannot ensure safety, they may try for other placement options, including the Emergency Room. If a youth assaults someone outside of the family, it is up to the victim to press charges.

For youth on formal probation, a criminal offense may result in a citation and/or detention. In this case, law enforcement will notify the Youth Court on call probation officer for follow up. As there is no juvenile detention facility in Ravalli, youth detained will go to Missoula Juvenile Detention Center.


If a youth is placed in detention, a detention hearing occurs within 24 hours. The hearing determines whether the youth will stay longer or be released. The Public Defender’s office represents the youth and advises the youth on how to proceed. The Youth Court Probation Officer will also inform the judge if there are any less restrictive alternatives to detention, such as shelter care or home arrest. If a youth is kept in detention, charges must be filed within 7 days and a hearing on those charges must take place within 14 days.