Montana categorizes crimes into felonies and misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is a less serious crime than a felony and punishable by up to a year in jail. Felonies are punishable by at least one year in prison. Misdemeanor crimes are distinguished from felonies by the seriousness of injury caused to another person, the cash value of property taken, or the amount of drugs in a person’s possession and whether there is proof of intent to sell or distribute the drugs. Montana does not classify its misdemeanor crimes into separate classes.
For information on felonies, see Montana Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Misdemeanors in Montana
Misdemeanor crimes in Montana include:
- criminal trespass
- theft of property not exceeding $1,500 in value
- issuing a bad check not exceeding $1,500 in value
- possession of marijuana not exceeding 60 grams, and
- driving under the influence.
Penalties for Misdemeanors in Montana
The statute governing each misdemeanor crime in Montana provides the sentence for the crime. Most misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine up to $500, or both; or by up to one year in jail or a fine up to $1,000, or both. For some crimes, such as theft and issuing a bad check, the fines can be up to $1,500.
Criminal Statute of Limitations
Montana law requires that a criminal prosecution begin within a certain amount of time after a crime is committed or believed to have been committed. This criminal statute of limitations limits the length of time the state can wait before filing charges against a person. For more information on the criminal statute of limitations, see Criminal Statutes of Limitations in Montana.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for a misdemeanor crime in Montana can become part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A conviction for even a minor crime can hurt you when you are looking for a job, applying to rent a house or apartment, or applying for a professional license. A person convicted of misdemeanor possession of an illegal substance – even a tiny amount for personal use only – can be barred from ever receiving federal financial aid for students.
An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.