The penalties for possessing, selling or distributing cocaine in Montana are harsh, with simple possession carrying a punishment of up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. That said, how harsh of a sentence a criminal court judge will dole out depends on a number of factors, including your prior criminal record, what you planned to do with the drugs and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. FindLaw details Montana’s drug laws in depth.

Montana, like most states, is lenient with first-time offenders. If you have a relatively clean criminal record, you may qualify as a first-time offender. If this is the case, the judge may grant you a waiver and allow you to participate in a drug treatment program, serve probation or engage in community service.

In addition to granting waivers to first-time offenders, Montana also offers offenders the opportunity to participate in a drug treatment program. However, the state does not extend this opportunity to just anyone. To determine eligibility, the courts review defendants’ criminal records, examine current case information and look into their drug abuse history. Drug treatment program participants range from non-violent offenders with no history or substance abuse to those with extensive criminal records and track records of failure in other substance abuse programs.

Offenders who do not receive the first-time offender waiver or who do not qualify for a drug treatment program are subject to the state’s harsher penalties. Those convicted of simple possession face up to five years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. Possession with the intent to sell or the actual sale of cocaine carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Drug trafficking carries a prison sentence of five years to life. A second-time offender faces a sentence of 20 years to life, while a third-time offender may remain in jail for 40 years to life. The fine for drug trafficking is $50,000.

This article is not meant to serve as legal information. It is for educational purposes only.