HELENA — The Montana Supreme Court has laid out temporary rules that establish procedures for expunging or revising marijuana-related convictions.
Montana’s recreational marijuana law says anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state can petition to have their conviction removed from their record, get a lesser sentence for it or reclassify it to a lesser offense.
The court released its order establishing the new rules on Tuesday.
Beth McLaughlin, the state court administrator, says the biggest clarification they wanted to make was letting people know they could submit their expungement request to the court where they were originally sentenced.
She said there had been some confusion because of a separate expungement procedure for misdemeanors that requires all defendants to go through district courts. “The interest is to make it easier for litigants."
The Office of Court Administration has also put together a set of forms to help people file their own expungement requests without getting an attorney. McLaughlin said those forms should be available on the Montana Judicial Branch website by the end of the week, and they will also be placed in self-help law centers around the state.
“The point is to make them as readily available as possible,” she said.
State law says courts should presume someone is eligible for expungement unless the county attorney proves otherwise. County attorneys will have 21 days to contest a petition.
McLaughlin said Montana district courts handled about 135 expungement petitions in 2021.