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Felony, Infractions, and Misdemeanors in Montana

Crimes in Montana are divided into three, based on the severity of the crime and the extent of damage or injury. As stated by the Montana Justice System these crimes include; felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. A felony is the most severe among the three and is punishable by up to life imprisonment. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a one-year prison term. An infraction is a petty offense that is punishable by a fine imposed by the court. It mostly doesn’t attract a prison term except in very rare cases. Summarily, Montana state crimes are tried on the basis of the aforementioned classification

What is a Felony in Montana?

Felonies are the most severe types of criminal acts in Montana. The penalty for felonies in Montana can be as severe as 100 years imprisonment or even a death sentence. Felonies carry a minimum of two years imprisonment which may also be accompanied by a fine or probation. The court determines the severity of the penalty that will be meted out on an offender during conviction. A person that is convicted of a felony is referred to as a felon.

All felonies do not carry the same weight. While some may attract a penalty of two years imprisonment, others may attract as high as a death sentence. However, Montana does not categorize felony crimes into different classes, so it’s the responsibility of the court to determine what penalty befits a crime. Some examples of felony crimes and possible penalties as defined by the Montana penal code include:

  • Intentional murder: 10 to 100 years in jail, or up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
  • Rape: 2 to 100 years in jail or up to life imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
  • Careless homicide: Up to 20 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
  • Aggravated assault and battery: Up to 20 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
  • Robbery: 2 to 40 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
  • Illegal possession of harmful drugs: 2 to 5 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

Felonies in Montana are not categorized into classes like other states. Penalties in Montana vary from a minimum sentence of two years in jail to as high as life imprisonment and death in very extreme cases. The sentence may also be accompanied by fine, therapy, probation, or electronic monitoring, if applicable. A defendant’s sentence is most times influenced by factors like the seriousness of the crime, the circumstances that surround the crime (aggravating or mitigating factors), the defendant’s past criminal record, the damages incurred, and the existence of any mental condition.

What are some examples of felonies in Montana?

Some examples of felonies in Montana include:

  • Intentional murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault and battery
  • Sexual assault
  • Human trafficking
  • Child abuse
  • Robbery
  • Production of child pornography
  • Assault with a harmful weapon
  • Fraud
  • Domestic assault
  • Home invasion
  • Manslaughter
  • Careless homicide
  • Arson

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Montana?

No, in most cases, a felony may not be removed from court records in Montana. There are no direct laws that suggest that a felony can be totally removed from court records. Despite this, in very unique cases, a record may be sealed, pardoned or expunged. However, the defendant must first confirm eligibility and possibly seek the assistance of a lawyer to aid the process. Felonies that may be removed may include crimes that were never convicted or cases where the defendant was discharged after he/she found not guilty. Most felonies are severe crimes and as such may not be eligible for removal, some of these include; murder, kidnapping, homicide, sexual assault, human trafficking, and so on.

Is Expungement the same as sealing Court records in Montana?

No, expungement and sealing court records are entirely different in Montana. While they both result in the removal of certain crimes from records, they involve two different processes. Expungement is a process whereby certain crimes are completely removed from court records, thereby denying availability to the general public. If an ex-convict’s crime is expunged, he/she can state that they were never convicted of that particular crime. On the other hand, sealing of court records means that the records that are sealed may still be available to authorized persons by court order. The difference is that an expunged record is completely removed, thereby erasing its existence while a sealed record will still be available in restricted access.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Montana?

A felony stays on a person’s record for life until it is expunged. While the state of Montana does not permit the expungement of most felonies, there are some rare exceptions where a felony may be expunged. If eligible, a person may appeal to have the record expunged or sealed.

What are Misdemeanors in Montana?

Misdemeanors in Montana are crimes that are not as severe as felonies but they are more severe than infractions. In Montana, misdemeanors are punishable by law with up to two years in jail, which may be accompanied by a fine or any other penalty that the court decides. They are enforced by local and state law enforcement officers. Misdemeanors are defined by the extent of damage or injury caused to another person or property, the quantity of drugs in a person’s possession, and the monetary value of the property stolen.

The penalty of a misdemeanor crime is determined by the gravity of the crime committed. Montana does not classify misdemeanors as some other states do. However, rightful judgment will be meted out to offenders of the law. Penalties range from as high as two years in jail to as low as six months in jail as defined by the Montana penal code. A jail sentence may also be accompanied with a fine or probation.

What are Examples of Misdemeanors in Montana?

Misdemeanors in Montana are not divided into classes, but they vary in terms of severity. Common examples include;

  • Rioting
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Prostitution
  • Counterfeiting
  • Negligent burning or exploding
  • Stealing
  • False impersonation
  • Misuse of 911
  • Unlawful possession of drug material
  • Reckless burning or exploding
  • Releasing an animal intentionally
  • Failure to use a seatbelt while driving
  • Identity theft or attempted identity theft
  • Animal neglect
  • Violation of child labor law
  • Gambling
  • Truancy
  • Reckless driving

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Montana?

Yes, if an individual is qualified, the court may permit the removal of some misdemeanor crimes from his/her criminal records. The process of removal may either be through expungement, sealing, or a pardon request. Not all individuals are qualified especially if they are still serving a jail term, or the misdemeanor committed is very severe and as such, it projects them as a threat to society. It is essential that a person who seeks to have a misdemeanor removed from court records first confirms eligibility because, if anyone applies for removal before the period of eligibility, the appeal may be denied.

After confirming eligibility an individual can apply for removal in the court where the conviction took place. The court may then remove the misdemeanor from records and dismiss all charges made against the individual. Certain driving offenses and sex-related crimes may not be expunged. Before expungement can be considered, it has to be at least 5 years since the defendant completed his/her jail sentence.

Can a DUI Record Be Expunged in Montana?

A DUI record may be expunged in Montana after an individual has completed his/her jail sentence and fulfilled all probation requirements. Until recently, the expungement of DUI records was not permitted in Montana and even now, the court may still deny a petition for expungement if the offender is considered ineligible. Usually, the court checks the number of years since the conviction and also examines if the offender is likely to be arrested for a similar crime again. If an offender is arrested for a similar crime within five years of initial conviction, he/she is less likely to get an expungement.

What is an Infraction in Montana?

An infraction in Montana is a civil violation of local ordinances and laws pertaining to traffic, land use, and so on. They are also referred to as petty offenses and are mostly not recorded as crimes as opposed to other types of offenses in Montana. They are lesser than felonies and misdemeanors in terms of severity and also attract the least penalties. Infractions in Montana are punishable by a fine of up to $300 for each offense. However, if an infraction has occurred before, a fine of up to $500 may be charged. Most infractions do not attract a jail sentence, but other minor penalties like community service and probation may apply.

Habitual infractions attract more intense penalties, this means that if an offender keeps repeating the same crime, the court may regard the crime as a misdemeanor. Infractions are enforced by state police officers who look out for offenders and arrest them. A complaint may also be made by an individual about another individual who is engaging in an activity that is negatively affecting the peace and serenity of a particular neighborhood. This is also treated as an infraction and will be settled in the court.

What constitutes an Infraction in Montana

Infractions are generally minor violations of statutory ordinances that do not carry the same weight as misdemeanors or felonies. Inasmuch as infractions are the least forms of crimes in Montana, they are still punishable with a fine. The court specifies what sort of penalty befits each infraction. Depending on the type of infraction, the offender may also be charged with community service. Infraction offenders are not entitled to most constitutional protections that are dispensed to defendants during court proceedings.

Court hearings always take place either in a state district court or a municipal court, depending on where the violation occurred. During court hearings, a defendant may either deny responsibility and request a formal hearing with a lawyer to debate the allegation, or admit responsibility for the violation and pay a specified fine. Common examples of infractions in Montana include; careless driving, speeding beyond limits, failure to wear a safety belt, disobeying a traffic control device, harboring non-vaccinated dogs, etc.

What are some examples of Infractions in Montana?

Like other types of crimes in Montana, infractions are not divided into classes, some examples of infractions in Montana include:

  • Failure to wear a safety belt
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Speeding beyond limit
  • Littering
  • Careless driving
  • Walking a pet without a lease
  • Disobeying a traffic control device
  • Making an illegal U-turn
  • Noise pollution
  • Violations of building codes and permits
  • Attempting to consume alcohol under the approved age
  • Disobeying state land-use rules
  • Boat violations
  • Fishing without a license
  • Harboring non-vaccinated dogs

Can Civil Infractions be Expunged from a Montana Criminal Court Record?

Infractions may be expunged from criminal court records in Montana if they are considered eligible for expungement by the court. This means that an infraction offender will need to wait for a specified period of years from the date of conviction before applying for expungement. The offenders must also have fully paid the fine imposed on them by the court and must have the community service sentence if any. After they have been confirmed to be of good standing and crime-free, expungement may be considered. Infractions like noise pollution, littering, walking a pet without a lease, and other minor violations may be expunged but some traffic infractions may not be expunged. Most traffic infractions remain on the offenders driving records. Examples of this include; careless driving, speeding beyond limits, failure to use a seat belt, failure to obey a traffic controlling device, etc.

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