A criminal record is a heavy burden to bear. Criminal convictions, arrests and even dismissals show up in background checks, hurting one’s chances of renting an apartment, qualifying for a mortgage or even getting a job.

Thankfully, many Montana residents’ criminal records are eligible for expungement under Montana law. How does expungement work?

Montana’s expungement process

In 2017, Montana’s lawmakers passed a law allowing the expungement of misdemeanor convictions. This new law and process follows a recent trend in expungement laws, making Montana the 30th state to add or change expungement laws since 2012.

Montana’s new laws are among the more aggressive expungement laws in the country as well. An individual can petition a court to expunge their entire misdemeanor record. All government offices that contain the files must delete them, only keeping the fingerprints.

Not all convictions are eligible for expungement, however. A court will not expunge a felony unless a court dismissed the charges. Sex crimes are ineligible as well. Montana residents can petition a court to expunge all other misdemeanors. Montana’s law allows people to petition to expunge every misdemeanor on their record at once.

The expungement process follows these steps:

  1. A person files a petition with the district court for an order to expunge qualifying misdemeanors.
  2. The prosecution office informs any victims.
  3. The District Court grants the order if five years have passed since the last conviction.
  4. The petitioner submits their fingerprints to law enforcement.
  5. The petitioner mails in an expungement form, fingerprints and the court order to the Criminal Records and Identification Services Section (CRISS).
  6. CRISS verifies the information and removes the data from their Computerized Criminal History (CCH) Records.

Secure legal help

Individuals curious about expunging their criminal records can reach out to a local attorney familiar with Montana criminal law. A lawyer can help assess one’s criminal history, locate and fill out paperwork and work with government agencies.