As stated by the United States, expungement is the legal destruction of criminal records and arresting files. After a record has been expunged it cannot be accessed by the public for any reason nor can it be accessed by local law enforcement. A person is then free to state that there was never an arrest and no conviction was made. Applying for employment, financial aid, professional licensing, and credit can then be done with ease and without the worry of a negative background check. The records may be accessed under extraneous circumstances as motioned by the court. Unlike most states, the state of Montana does not allow the expungement of criminal records or files in the same way. All records in relation to sexual or violent crimes that have been reversed may, subsequently, be released from all law enforcement agencies, state government agencies, the court, or local government agencies. All DNA information that is indexed due to a felony offense of a sexual or violent nature, or an adjudicated juvenile offense of the same caliber, will be expunged upon conviction reversal according to Montana law 44-6-107.
Since expungement in Montana is different from other states, the eligibility in Montana for expungement is also different. Reversed sexual or violent felonies or misdemeanors may be eligible if all other requirements are met. Adult felony convictions and adjudicated juvenile convictions for violent or sexual crimes that have been reversed can also qualify for DNA sample expungement. Deferred impositions due to dismissed charges can also have the option of petitioning for expungement.
Under Montana law, expungement does not have to be petitioned for through a sentencing court. Montana law 46-23-510 states that the court will order an expungement of any criminal records when a felony or misdemeanor conviction of a violent or sexual nature has been reversed. The county attorney where the arrest took place will then be required to inform the Department of Justice that the conviction was reversed and be required to eliminate all DNA records on file.
In the cases where a case of conviction has been dismissed, has been deemed nolle prossed, or where the individual is found not guilty, the records pertaining to the case will be closed and fully eliminated. This is the same for cases of the suspension of imposed sentences though the court of prosecution. When an individual is found not guilty because of a mental defect or illness, all records shall be closed in accordance with a criminal case. However certain agencies and other law enforcement agencies have the power to access the files of disposition for lawful circumstances.
Montana Felony Statute of Limitations
Montana has put in place a statute of limitations for felony prosecution. These include no limitation for mitigated, deliberate, or negligent homicide and five years for all other felonies, except for those that have had final reversal of violence or sexual felony convictions. In these instances the court of sentence will automatically order that an expunction be stipulated and all agencies will be notified. See also:
Montana Felony External link (opens in new window)
Montana Misdemeanors External link (opens in new window)
Montana Gun Laws External link (opens in new window)