Expungement in Montana
Expungement, as defined by the United States, is the legal destruction of criminal records and arresting files. After a record has been expunged, it cannot be accessed by the public or local law enforcement for any reason. A person is then free to claim that there was no arrest and no conviction. Applying for jobs, financial aid, professional licensing, and credit can all be done without fear of a negative background check. The records may be accessed under unusual circumstances, as requested by the court.
Unlike most states, Montana does not permit the expungement of criminal records or files in the same manner. All records relating to sexual or violent crimes that have been reversed may be released from any law enforcement agency, state government agency, court, or local government agency. According to Montana law 44-6-107, all DNA information indexed as a result of a felony offense of a sexual or violent nature, or an adjudicated juvenile offense of the same caliber, will be expunged upon conviction reversal.
Because expungement in Montana differs from other states, so does eligibility for expungement in Montana. If all other requirements are met, reversed sexual or violent felonies or misdemeanors may be eligible. Adult felony convictions and adjudicated juvenile convictions for violent or sexual crimes that have been overturned may also be eligible for DNA sample exclusion. Deferred impositions due to dismissed charges may also be petitioned for expungement.
Misdemeanor Expungement in Montana
Misdemeanors in Montana could not be expunged until recently. That has changed as a result of changes in state law. When you seek an expungement, you petition the court to have the records of your misdemeanor offense destroyed.
Montana misdemeanor DUI convictions can now be expunged, but the courts will scrutinize them closely and success is unlikely. The court will consider the time elapsed between conviction and sentence. Keep in mind that the 5-year minimum is just that: a minimum. They will also consider the probability of reoffending The more proof you can provide that you’ve been a good person and have changed your ways, the more likely your expungement will be granted.
Getting Records Removed
Montana’s new expungement laws are also among the most aggressive in the country. An individual may petition a court to have their full misdemeanor record expunged. All government departments that have the files must destroy them, keeping just the fingerprints.
Expunction does not have to be requested through a sentencing court in Montana. Montana law 46-23-510 states that when a felony or misdemeanor conviction of a violent or sexual nature is reversed, the court will order the expungement of any criminal records. The county attorney where the arrest occurred will then be required to notify the Department of Justice that the conviction has been reversed and to destroy all DNA records on file.
The expungement procedure is as follows:
- A person applies to the district court for an order expunging eligible misdemeanors.
- Any victims are notified by the prosecution office.
- The petitioner sends the Criminal Records and Identification Services Section an expungement form, fingerprints, and the court order (CRISS).
- The petitioner provides law enforcement with their fingerprints.
- CRISS validates the data and deletes it from their Computerized Criminal History (CCH) Records.
- If it has been five years since the last conviction, the District Court will grant the order.
When a case of conviction is dismissed, deemed nolle prossed, or the individual is found not guilty, the records pertaining to the case are closed and completely erased. This is also true in cases where sentences have been suspended by a court of prosecution. When a person is found not guilty due to a mental defect or illness, all records pertaining to a criminal case must be closed. However, certain agencies and other law enforcement agencies have the authority to access disposition files under certain circumstances.
Limitation Period for Felonies in Montana
For felony prosecution, Montana has enacted a statute of limitations. There is no time limit for mitigated, deliberate, or negligent homicide and a five-year sentence for all other felonies, except those with final reversal of violence or sexual felony convictions. In these cases, the court of sentence will automatically order an expunction and notify all relevant agencies.
Individuals interested in expunging their criminal records should contact a local attorney who is familiar with Montana criminal law. A lawyer can assist in assessing one’s criminal history, locating and filling out paperwork, and interacting with government agencies.