How to Expunge my Public Records in Montana

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Deleting a public record means erasing all evidence about the existence of such a record. According to the Montana Public Records Act, every person has the right to examine and obtain copies of public records in the state. However, this right of access to public records can harm individuals who have criminal records. These individuals may encounter difficulty finding gainful employment, obtaining credit facilities, or securing professional licenses. To remedy this situation, such record owners may attempt to delete or restrict public access to their records. Some benefits of deleting a public record in Montana include:

  • It clears previously convicted individuals of possible employment barriers associated with criminal histories
  • It gives previously convicted individuals equal opportunities with other prospective students when applying to educational institutions
  • It prevents house owners from uncovering adverse information about potential tenants that may jeopardize their chances of securing residential apartments

However, only misdemeanor records may be deleted in Montana. After a record is deleted, the subject's fingerprints are kept safe for investigative purposes.

What is a Public Record in Montana?

According to the Montana Code, public records mean any public information that is fixed and retrievable in a usable form for future reference. It refers to all records retained by the judicial branch, state records committee, local government records, or legislative branch regardless of form, physical characteristics, or location.

Some examples of public records in Montana are

  • Vital records (death, birth, marriage)
  • Criminal records
  • Court records
  • Arrest records
  • Statistical data
  • Government financial records
  • Licensing records

According to Article 2, Section 9 of the Montana constitution, no individual shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations or examine documents of all public agencies or bodies. However, in situations where the demand for individual privacy exceeds the benefits resulting from public disclosure, certain exceptions may apply. Records exempted from public disclosure in Montana include:

  • Records containing information about the locations of burial sites
  • Security information, which if released, would jeopardize the security of people
  • The Montana Historical Society's collections
  • Social Security numbers
  • Library records
  • Trade secrets

Although certain records are open to public access in Montana, an individual may file a petition to restrict access to their records through expungement or sealing.

Does Montana allow Expungement?

Yes. Title 46, Chapter 18, Part 11 of the Montana Code permits an individual to petition the District Court to expunge their entire misdemeanor records, provided that specific requirements are met. Once the court approves an individual’s petition to expunge their public record, all government offices keeping records of such files must delete them.

How do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Montana?

A resident may expunge their criminal record by filing a petition for Montana criminal record expungement through the District Court. However, the following conditions must be met by individuals for criminal records to be expunged in Montana:

  • The offense must be a misdemeanor
  • An individual must have completed their entire misdemeanor sentence, paid all stipulated fines, and fulfilled all the conditions of their sentence
  • At least five years must have passed since the completion of their sentence
  • There must be no new sentence since the completion of the individual's sentence
  • If their offense injured a victim, the opinion of such a victim must be sought

In Montana, sex crimes are ineligible for expungement, and a court will only expunge a felony record if the charges were dismissed. In a case where the Judge believes that expunging an individual's criminal record will jeopardize public safety, the Judge may deny such an expungement petition. Typically, the District Court pays extra attention when handling expungement petitions for the following crimes:

  • Assault
  • Stalking
  • Misdemeanor DUI
  • Domestic Assault
  • Protective Order Violation

To expunge a misdemeanor criminal record in Montana, an individual must take the following steps:

  • File a petition to expunge qualifying misdemeanors with the District Court
  • Notify the prosecution office responsible for the sentence
  • Notify any victims affected by the crime
  • If the District Court grants the order, the petitioners must visit the relevant law enforcement agency and submit their fingerprints on the applicant fingerprint card
  • The petitioner can then obtain the Expungement/Removal Request Form and fill out the required details

After completing the form, the petitioner may enclose it with the fingerprint card, and the order to expunge misdemeanor records to:

Department of Justice

Criminal Records and Identification Services Section

P.O. Box 201403

Helena, MT 59620

(406) 444-3481

Upon receiving these documents from the petitioner, the Criminal Records and Identification Services Section (CRISS) will verify that the individual has not had a reason to expunge any record in the past. CRISS will also ascertain the individual's identity using the fingerprint card.

After CRISS has confirmed the identity of the individual, it will expunge their criminal record from the Computerized Criminal History (CCH). It usually takes 30 days for the expungement process to be complete in Montana. Although persons may only expunge their misdemeanor records once in a lifetime, multiple misdemeanors may be sealed in one court proceeding.

Will My Expungement Record Show Up on a Background Check in Montana?

When a record is expunged in Montana, its report does not show up on a background check conducted by employers, financial institutions, or academic institutions. They are completely deleted and are no longer available for public viewing. Also, a person whose record has been expunged does not need to mention it to a potential landlord or employer when asked. It is a general rule that employers must not conduct non-FCRA compliant background checks in determining the suitability of prospective employees.

How to Seal a Record in Montana

When a record is sealed, it is not deleted. Rather, public access to it is restricted. After receiving an order to seal a record in Montana, the public agency must do so, provided that the individual has met the stipulated conditions.

Before requesting to have their records sealed, individuals must conduct a Montana public criminal history record check through the Criminal History Online Public Record Search (CHOPRS) at a fee of $20 per search. The CHOPRS provides the public with electronic access to criminal records following the Montana Code 44-5-301.

Individuals may also request their criminal records through mail-in name-based checks or mail-in fingerprint checks. All mail-in name-based checks should include:

  • The names of the individuals being checked and aliases, maiden names, or nicknames
  • Dates of birth
  • Social Security numbers

Such requests should be enclosed in self-addressed, stamped envelopes and sent to:

Montana Criminal Records

P.O. Box 201403

Helena, MT 59620

Phone: (406) 444-3625

Fax: (406) 444-0689

It costs a fee of $15 for a record to be checked.

To submit mail-in fingerprint checks, individuals must include their applicant fingerprint cards and provide the following information/documents:

  • The signatures from the official and the individual taking the fingerprint
  • The subjects’ names entered in the order of Last Name, First Name, and Middle Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security numbers
  • All other names associated with the individuals
  • All personal identification

All applications for mail-in fingerprint checks should be enclosed in self-addressed stamped envelopes along with a $10 processing fee payable by check or money order. Requesters should mail the complete request to Montana Criminal Records.

In a case where an individual has a deferred sentence that the court has not dismissed, such a person must contact the court to have the sentence dismissed. After CRISS receives the order to dismiss the charge, the charge will be dismissed, and the record will be sealed.

Who Can See My Sealed Record in Montana?

In Montana, a sealed record can only be accessed by law enforcement agencies. However, the members of the public can access sealed records by a District Court order. Some of the law enforcement agencies that have legal rights to access sealed records in Montana include:

Any law enforcement agency or individual with the right to view sealed records must do so with a high level of confidentiality.

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Montana

Once bankruptcy records are registered in an individual's credit report, they are difficult to delete. However, in a situation where the bankruptcy record is untrue or inaccurate, an individual may file a petition to delete it. A bankruptcy record cannot be removed for the following reasons:

  • If the individual does not want the record anymore
  • If the individual now has a bad credit score
  • If the individual's debt has been paid off

Legally, a chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on an individual's credit report for ten years, and a chapter 13 bankruptcy stays for seven years. Bankruptcy records are automatically removed after these times. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), individuals may challenge the following errors on their credit history:

  • A piece of bankruptcy information that has stayed longer than seven to ten years
  • Inaccurate information
  • Inaccurate filling date
  • Previously discharged debts still showing on the report
  • Incorrect dates, contact information, addresses, or names
  • A bankruptcy report recorded as a result of mistaken identity, administrative mistakes, identity theft, or any random error

To delete an erroneous bankruptcy record, an individual may take the following steps:

  • Report the bankruptcy fraud by contacting the United States Bankruptcy Trustee's Office
  • Provide all required information, including the name, address, business or credit reporting agency, name of the case, bankruptcy case number, location of the filing, description of the fraud, and date
  • State the damages that the credit bureau's mistake has cost them
  • Allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to review the case
  • Gather relevant documentation and other factual information to serve as evidence

Individuals may contact the United States Bankruptcy Trustee's Office at:

United States Bankruptcy Court

Mike Mansfield Federal Courthouse

400 North Main Street

2nd Floor

Butte, MT 59701

Phone: (406) 497-1240

What are Consumer Protection Laws in Montana

In Montana, the Consumer Protection Act seeks to educate and protect  Montana consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices. The Office of Consumer Protection is the agency authorized by law to execute the provisions of the act. The responsibilities of the Office of Consumer Protection include:

  • To educate consumers about the Consumer Protection Act
  • To enforce consumer laws that will protect the consumers from unfair business practices
  • To assist consumers by distributing education materials to them
  • To investigate false, deceptive, or misleading trade practices
  • To assist in preparing any other legislation for consumer protection
  • To enforce statutes that relate to telemarketing and telephone solicitation

To further guarantee the privacy of consumer information, the Montana legislature enacted House Bill No 603. By this act, a government entity must receive a search warrant before obtaining the location information of an electronic device except under the following conditions:

  • The electronic device is reported stolen
  • To respond to the user's call for an emergency service
  • The owner or user of the device expressly consents to the search
  • There is the possibility of a life-threatening situation

Per the Montana Information Technology Act, every website user in Montana has a right to privacy. Any personal information obtained must not be disclosed to a third party except the individual or website user expressly authorizes the disclosure. Also, residents are not required to provide any form of personal information to access Montana websites and their content. However, to provide specialized services, the government may request some personal information, but such information is handled with confidentiality.

How to Delete Lien Records in Montana

A lien is a legal right that gives a creditor a security interest on a debtor's property. Several creditors secure their debts by placing liens on their debtor's properties. However, creditors may lift such liens once debtors fulfill their obligations.

In Montana, a creditor must remove a lien within five days of receiving a formal request to do so. Upon receiving the formal request, the creditor must prepare and complete a lien release form. For a lien release form to be valid, it must contain the following information:

  • The lien file number
  • The date of filing
  • The name of the debtor from whom the creditor is claiming payment
  • The creditor's name and address
  • A statement that the creditor is releasing the lien and that it has been satisfied
    The lien release form can then be submitted by mail or in person at the county recorder's office. It is important to note that the lien release form must be filed in the same county recorder's office where the lien was initially filed. Interested persons may search for lien records in Montana through the UCC11 Copy Request form. There are a variety of options to customize the search and request copies of the records.

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