The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday approved temporary procedural rules for expunging or revising cannabis-related convictions, Montana Public Radio (MTPR) reports. The reforms were included in the state’s adult-use cannabis law approved by voters in 2020.
Under the law, people previously convicted of crimes that are now legal can petition for re-sentencing or expungement. The rules allow for individuals currently serving time for low-level cannabis crimes to apply for re-sentencing and potential release and later file an application for expungement.
Under the Supreme Court-approved rules, county or city attorneys must respond to a petition within 21 days after it is filed and if the attorney does not respond, it is assumed that they do not object to the relief requested by the petitioner, which would move the petition to the judge of the court in which the petition is filed. The rules also allow denied petitions to be appealed.
Successful petitioners would be responsible for paying any associated fees and for submitting the necessary paperwork to the Department of Justice, if required, to effectuate the expungement or redesignation, the order states.
Beth McLaughlin, the state court administrator, told KTVH that the biggest clarification in the rules is that those seeking re-sentencing or expungement could submit their petition to the court where they were originally sentenced. She said the Office of Court Administration has also put together forms to help people files their own petition without needing to hire an attorney.
McLaughlin indicated that Montana district courts handled about 135 expungement petitions last year.
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