Search Free Montana Arrest & Criminal Records: All MT Counties

Free Montana Arrest Records & Criminal Records Search
Access Montana Records: background checks, warrants, probation and parole, court records, and all criminal and arrest records.

Search free Montana arrest records, including general criminal records and information regarding warrants, probation, parole, violent offenders, sexual offenders, and prison records through official state agencies today.

Montana criminal records are made available to the public due to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the state’s Public Records Act. However, accessing these records can prove frustrating since online searches can lead citizens astray; plus, there are several different record custodians (agencies who host and distribute Montana public records) and each has their own process to retrieve said records.

For this reason, this article lists out every agency who distributes public criminal records, their processes, forms, contact information, and online search portals, making the process of finding people’s criminal history in any Montana county quick and easy.

In addition to showing citizens how to find arrest and criminal records, this will also depict how to get ahold of someone in jail, initiate the bail process, get a background check done for professional or personal uses, seal and expunge records, and what laws are in place to protect individual’s from criminals record discrimination, and discrimination of protected classes too.

Can the Public Access or View Criminal Records & Arrest Records in Montana?

Montana arrest and criminal records collectively also known as rap sheets, are a part of public records in the state.

Due to the Montana Public Records Act, the law gives citizens guaranteed access to public records of government agencies at all levels—these records include writings, electronic mail and non-print media such as photographs, videotapes, films and computer disk.1

This act was enacted in the spirit of the broader federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which gives the public the right to access federal agency records with some exemptions such as medical files, trade secrets and classified information related to national defense.2

It should be stated even though Montana is considered an open record state, its public records laws are very much tied to the right to privacy which may limit the accessing of records if the right to privacy of an individual exceeds the public right to access these records.3

With that said, Montana has made a separation of criminal records into public and confidential information by the Criminal Justice Information Act which was enacted in 1979.4 Public criminal records may include arrest records, convictions and sentences; while confidential criminal records include fingerprints, crime scene photographs and court documents that are sealed such as juvenile records.

The primary public records repository of Montana arrest records lies with the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, but they may also be sought from the county sheriff’s offices, local law enforcement agencies and the court as described below.

What Is Revealed on Montana Criminal Records Searches vs Arrest Records Searches?

Criminal records and arrest records both contain information that deals with interaction with law enforcement—however, the two record types have some distinct differences.

Arrest records will typically be records created once an individual has been taken into custody for a crime they are suspected of committing and will include information such as date of arrest, reason for arrest or whether there is a bond amount present.

Criminal records will point to records of individuals who may be housed in jail and/or prison and have subsequently gone through the court system and can include information such as types of convictions, charges of the court and date of release.

Criminal Records Include:

  • Full Names
  • Date of Birth (DOB)
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Case Numbers
  • Court Information
  • Addresses (former and present)
  • Type of Conviction
  • Guilty Pleas (if any)
  • Date of Conviction
  • Charges of the Court (felony or misdemeanor charge)
  • Date of Release
  • Mug Shot (photograph)
  • Former Arrest Records
  • Date of Disposition

Arrest Records Contain:

  • Names of the Arrested Individual
  • Booking Number
  • Court Case Number
  • Age
  • Address
  • Gender
  • Arresting Agency
  • Date of Arrest
  • Arrest Location
  • Cell Number
  • Charges
  • Warrant Information
  • Severity of the Charge
  • Bail Amount

How To See if Someone Is in Jail, the Reason for Detainment & Mugshots in Montana (Free)

Montana arrest records can be obtained through the county’s sheriff’s offices and police departments seen below—and this can be done at no cost to the requester.

Current and recent rests can be found by making a visit to the law enforcement agency, making a phone call or accessing the rosters that are available online.

While some information such as fingerprints may be withheld that may infringe on the inmate’s privacy or information that may jeopardize any criminal court proceeding, the public can obtain arrest records without requiring a consent from the subject of the record. Information such as reasons for arrest, date, location, and bail amount are all available to the public.

How To Perform a Montana Arrest Record Search: Online Inmate Lookup Tools & Contact Information for Every MT County Sheriff’s Office

There are 56 counties located in the state of Montana and some 129 cities and towns.

Each county has a sheriff’s department which may sometimes have online rosters of the inmates they have in custody. Several of these agencies may also have photographs of the offender in their mugshot database that makes up part of the current arrests records.

An example of an inmate roster and arrest report from Cascade County Sheriff’s Office showing mugshots appears below:

A screenshot of the Cascade County inmate roster from the county's detention center shows the inmates' mugshots, names, ages, jacket numbers, booking times and dates, charges, and unresolved bonds in table form.
Source: Cascade County Sheriff’s Office29

Using online rosters for locating daily arrests is not only free, but usually one of the fastest ways to do so. Interested individuals may also physically visit the sheriff’s office or make a phone call in the case that they are not able to find recent arrests online or require more detailed information on who’s in jail.

The table below gives a summary for requesters to quickly locate online arrest logs or inmate rosters in all 56 counties in Montana. Sheriff’s offices that do not maintain online rosters will have a link that points to a contact page and will be denoted with a (*).

County Inmate Search Tool County Jail or Sheriff’s Office
Phone Number
Shows Mugshots?
Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Office* (406)683-3700 X
Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office (406)665-9780 X
Blaine County Sheriff’s Office* (406)357-3260 X
Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office (406)266-3441 X
Carbon County Sheriff’s Office* (406)446-1234 X
Carter County Sheriff’s Office* (406)775-8743 X
Cascade County Sheriff’s Office (406)454-6820
Chouteau County Sheriff’s Office (406)622-5451
Custer County Sheriff’s Office (406)874-3320 X
Daniels County Sheriff’s Office* (406)487-2691 X
Dawson County Sheriff’s Office* (406)377-5291 X
Deer Lodge County Sheriff’s Office* (406)846-2711 X
Fallon County Sheriff’s Office* (406)778-2879 X
Fergus County Sheriff’s Office (406)535-3415 X
Flathead County Sheriff’s Office (406)758-5610
Garfield County Sheriff’s Office* (406)557-2540 X
Glacier County Sheriff’s Office* (406)873-2711 X
Golden Valley County Sheriff’s Office* (406)568-2321 X
Granite County Sheriff’s Office* (406)859-3251 X
Hill County Sheriff’s Office* (406)265-2512 X
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office* (406)225-4075 X
Judith Basin County Sheriff’s Office* (406)566-2277 X
Lake County Sheriff’s Office (406)883-7301 X
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office (406)447-8293 X
Liberty County Sheriff’s Office* (406)759-5171 X
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office (406)362-4344 X
Madison County Sheriff’s Office* (406)843-5301 X
McCone County Sheriff’s Office* (406)485-3405 X
Meagher County Sheriff’s Office* (406)547-3612 X
Mineral County Sheriff’s Office* (406)822-3555 X
Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (406)258-4810 X
Musselshell County Sheriff’s Office* (406)323-1402 X
Park County Sheriff’s Office* (406)222-4172 X
Petroleum County Sheriff’s Office* (406)429-5231 X
Phillips County Sheriff’s Office (406)654-2350 X
Pondera County Sheriff’s Office* (406)271-4060 X
Powder River County Sheriff’s Office* (406)436-2333 X
Powell County Sheriff’s Office* (406)846-1650 Non emergency X
Prairie County Sheriff’s Office* (406)635-5738 X
Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office* (406)375-4060 X
Richland County Sheriff’s Office* (406)433-2919 X
Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office (406)653-6216
Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office (406)346-2715 X
Sanders County Sheriff’s Office (406)827-3584 X
Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office* (406)765-1200 X
Silver Bow County Sheriff’s Office* (406)497-1120 X
Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office* (406)322-8000 X
Sweet Grass County Sheriff’s Office* (406)932-5143 X
Teton County Sheriff’s Office* (406)466-5781 X
Toole County Sheriff’s Office* (406)434-5585 X
Treasure County Sheriff’s Office* (406)342-5211 X
Valley County Sheriff’s Office* (406)228-4333 X
Wheatland County Sheriff’s Office* (406)632-5614 X
Wibaux County Sheriff’s Office* (406)796-2415 X
Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office* (406)256-2929 X

In addition to looking up arrest records in the county, interested individuals may also search city jails in some states that may maintain inmate rosters. However, this is not applicable in Montana as there are no city jails in any of its big cities. Therefore, citizens should look to the county jails for this information.

Further insight into looking up individuals incarcerated in correctional facilities throughout the state can be reviewed in the Montana inmate lookup overview.

How Do I Get Ahold of Someone in a Montana Jail & Bail Them Out?

Once it has been determined which county jail an inmate is, contacting an inmate and bailing them are simple and straightforward processes.

Contacting an Inmate

It is possible for family and friends to contact inmates who are located in county jails through a number of methods including:

  • Inmate visitations which be in person or through video calls
  • Through mail
  • Sending and receiving phone calls

The process of contacting inmates will vary between counties but generally most will allow some form of visitation and communication by mail. Members of the public should contact the sheriff’s office to obtain information on procedures and protocols for contacting inmates.

Inmates in the state can send and receive mail from virtually anyone except victims. They may also receive photographs, magazines and photocopies of newspapers. While there are no restrictions on mail correspondence, charges must be borne by the inmates and incoming mail will be opened and inspected.

Content of the mail that appears cryptic, planning an escape or describing the manufacture of intoxicants will be met with disciplinary actions. Correspondence to inmates should have the format below:

  • Full Names of the Inmate, ID Number
  • Name of the Facility
  • Stress Address or P.O. Box
  • City, State, Zip Code

An example will be used for illustrative purposes—the Lewis & Clark Sheriff’s Office mail protocols which gives an insight as to the general requirements when contacting inmates via mail:

  • Mail must always include the inmates full names.
  • Books, newspapers and magazines are not to be mailed (there are some sheriff’s offices that do allow these).
  • Detention staff will witness the opening of legal mail.
  • Personal mail will always be inspected.
  • Mail should not contain items such as perfume, stickers, glitter, crayon, paints etc.

County jails will also allow the visitation of inmates on certain days of the week and for a limited time. Again the Lewis & Clark Sheriff’s Office visitation protocols will be used to give some idea:

  • Inmate visitation is on the weekends and holidays alone.
  • Visitors are allowed only one 20 minute visitation per day.
  • They will need to provide a government issued ID such as a driver’s license or identity card.
  • Visitors must be at least 18 years old.
  • Inmates will fill out a visitor request form that identifies those they would like to visit.

Bailing Out an Inmate

Bond amounts for misdemeanor charges are set by the court—felony charges and other additional ‘no bond’ convictions. These 5 methods below allow individuals to furnish bail in the state:6

  1. Pay a deposit with the court in an amount that is equal to the required bail of cash, bonds, stocks, certificates of deposit or property that is approved by the court.
  2. Pledging real estate located within Montana owned either by the defendant or sureties valued at double the amount of required bail. This should be handled by an attorney as it is a complicated process.
  3. Posting a written undertaking which must be executed by 2 sufficient sureties and the defendant.
  4. Posting the defendant’s unexpired driver license in lieu of bail. This only applies if the summons describes offenses provided for in Montana Code § 61-5-214 such as a misdemeanor violation.7 The license will be returned by the judge after the required bail has been posted and/or a final determination of the charge.
  5. Elicit the use of a bail bondsman by posting a commercial surety bond or one posted by the defendant on behalf of the surety company.

The bond amount ensures that the defendant appears in court at all times and through all states of proceedings unless the bond is denied by the court—pursuant to Montana Code § 46-9-107 will remain in effect until the final sentence is made in open court.8

Upon finalization of the case, defendants are eligible to receive some or all of their cash bond. Surety bonds that are posted will not get a refund of the surety bonds agent’s fee.

How To Search MT Criminal Records & Discover Any Past Offenses

In addition to retrieving criminal records from local, state and federal agencies, interested individuals can also obtain these records from each of these agencies and the steps do do so are outlined below:

  • Querying the Montana Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI) which will be discussed in the sections below.
  • Using the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) database to retrieve appellate court records and records of federal offenses.  While searching is free, these records may incur a nominal cost.
  • Citizens can also find criminal records through county courts which contain court records and information on ongoing court cases.

Court records can also be obtained from some counties by physically visiting the county court houses where terminals are located. The courthouses in Missoula, Great Falls, Butte & Billings have at least one computer terminal that can be utilized by members of the public to view court records—however, these terminals do not allow for the downloading or printing of records.9

Copies can be obtained by contacting the clerk’s office for a charge of $0.50 per page as seen on this full fee schedule.10

Perform a Criminal Record Search via the County Clerk of Court (MT)

As court records are part of public records, they are available to members of the public. However, unlike some states, Montana does not maintain a central database for all court cases and therefore finding court records is not necessarily a simple and straightforward process.

Court cases from the Montana Supreme Court from 2007 onwards can be accessed virtually by utilizing the Supreme Court Public View Docket Search.11 For cases between 1979-2007, docket information can be searched for but the documents and transcripts will not be available online—the information that is available online can be accessed at no charge.

A screenshot of the Supreme Court public view docket search, where people can access court cases from the Montana Supreme Court from 2007 onwards.
Source: Montana’s Supreme Court Docket Search30

As there is no central repository database for court records in the state, members of the public who need to access county court records and/ or Montana criminal records will have to contact the clerk of the court of the respective county either by phone, mail or physically visiting the court.

The table below and this Court Locator Tool maintained by the Montana Judicial Branch can be used to pinpoint courts that serve counties and cities.12 This table makes it easier since interested individuals can quickly locate the address and phone number of the courts.

County County Courthouse Address Phone Number
Beaverhead County 2 South Pacific St., #5
Dillion, MT 59725
Big Horn County 121 W. 3rd St
Hardin, MT 59034
Blaine County 400 Ohio St.
PO Box 969
Chinook, MT 59523
Broadwater County 515 Broadway St.,
Townsend, MT 59644-2397
Carbon County 102 N. Broadway Ave
PO Box 948
Red Lodge, MT 59068
Carter County 214 Park Street
P. O. Box 322
Ekalaka, MT 59324-0322
Cascade County 415 2nd Ave. N.
Great Falls, MT 59401
Chouteau County 1308 Franklin
P.O. Box 459
Fort Benton, MT 59442-0459
Custer County 1010 Main Street Miles City,
MT 59301-3419
Daniels County 213 Main
P.O. Box 67
Scobey, MT 59263-0067
Dawson County 207 West Bell St.
Glendive, MT 59330
Deer Lodge County 800 South Main St.
Anaconda, MT 59711-2999
Fallon County 10 West Fallon
P.O. Box 1521
Baker, MT 59313-1521
Fergus County 712 W. Main St.
Lewistown, MT 59457
Flathead County 920 South Main, Ste. 300
Kalispell, MT 59901
Garfield County P. O. Box 8
Jordan, MT 59337-0008
Glacier County 512 E. Main St.
Cutbank, MT 59427
Golden Valley County 107 Kemp Street
P.O. Box 10
Ryegate, MT 59074
Granite County 220 North Sansome St.
PO Box 399
Philipsburg, MT 59858
Hill County 315 4th Street
Havre, MT 59501
Jefferson County 201 Centennial Ave.
PO Box H
Boulder, MT 59632
Judith Basin County 91 N. 3rd St.
PO Box 427
Stanford, MT 59479
Lake County 106 E. 4th Ave
Polson, MT 59860
Lewis and Clark County 228 East Broadway St.
Helena, MT 59601
Liberty County 111 – 1st Street East
P.O. Box 549
Chester, MT 59522-0549
Lincoln County 512 California Ave
Libby, MT 59923
Madison County 100 W. Wallace St.
PO Box 185
Virginia City, MT 59755
McCone County 1004 C Ave.
PO Box 199
Circle, MT 59215
Meagher County 15 Main Street
P.O. Box 443
White Sulphur Springs, MT 59645
Mineral County 300 River St.
PO Box 129
Superior, MT 59872
Missoula County 220 W. Broadway St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Musselshell County 506 Main Street
Roundup, MT 59072
Park County 414 East Callender St.
PO Box 437
Livingston, MT 59047
Petroleum County 201 E. Main St.
PO Box 226
Winnett, MT 59087
Phillips County 314 S. 2nd Ave W
PO Box 530
Malta, MT 59538
Pondera County 20 Fourth Ave SW
Conrad, MT 59425
Powder River County Courthouse Square
P.O. Box 200
Broadus, MT 59317-0239
Powell County 409 Missouri Ave.
Deer Lodge, MT 59722
Prairie County 217 W. Park St.
PO Box 125
Terry, MT 59349
Ravalli County 205 Bedford St.
Hamilton, MT 59840
Richland County 300 12th Ave NW
Sidney, MT 59270
Roosevelt County 400 – 2nd Ave. S
Wolf Point, MT 59201
Rosebud County 1200 Main
P.O. Box 48
Forsyth, MT 59327
Sanders County 1111 W. Main St.
PO Box 519
Thompson Falls, MT 59873
Sheridan County 100 W Laurel Ave
Plentywood, MT 59254
Silver Bow County 155 W. Granite St., Rm 313
Butte, MT 59701
Stillwater County 400 N. 3rd Ave
PO Box 367
Columbus, MT 59019
Sweet Grass County 200 West 1st Ave
PO Box 698
Big Timber, MT 59011
Teton County 101 Main Ave S.
PO Box 487
Choteau, MT 59422
Toole County 226 First St. S.
PO Box 850
Shelby, MT 59474
Treasure County 307 Rapelje
P.O. Box 392
Hysham, MT 59038-0392
Valley County 501 Court Square
Glasgow, MT 59230
Wheatland County 201 A Avenue NW
P.O. Box 227
Harlowton, MT 59036-0227
Wibaux County 203 Wibaux St.
PO Box 292
Wibaux, MT 59353
Yellowstone County 217 N. 27th Street, Rm. 702, 703 and 704
P.O. Box 35030
Billings, MT 59107

While it is possible to obtain criminal records from court records, members of the public should not rely on them when they are looking on how to find recent arrests as they typically contain older records. Recent arrest information should be sought from local police departments and county sheriff’s offices.

What’s the Best Way To Get a Copy of Criminal Records in Montana?

The state maintains a criminal records repository through the Montana Department of Justice located at the Division of Criminal Investigation. This service allows members of the public electronic access limited to only Montana’s public criminal history information in accordance with MT Code § 44-5-301.13

Background checks can either be name based and finger based—named based criminal record searches can be performed online through the Criminal History Online Public Record Search, in-person or mailing in a request.14 The process of running a criminal background check will be expounded upon in the section below.

A screenshot of the criminal history online public record search, which allows users to search the state's public criminal history record database.
Source: Montana Division of Criminal Investigation31

While this method isn’t free, the county sheriff’s office, local police departments and courts don’t charge for record searches.

How To Get a Background Checks Done in Montana (Name & Fingerprint-Based)

As mentioned briefly before, Montana background checks are performed through the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation either online, making an in-person request or mail in requests.

Name-Based Search

Name based searches or background checks look for records throughout the state but do not check national criminal records. Choose from the online, mail and in person methods to get a background check done in the state of Montana.


Members of the public  can perform background checks using the Criminal History Online Public Record Search furnished by the Montana Department of Justice.

  1. To perform the check, proceed to the Criminal History Online Public Record Search tool and either perform a one-time search or register as a user of the system.
  2. The cost for each search is $20.00. Registered users pay a yearly fee of $100.00 for an unlimited number of searches.
  3. To initiate the search, the system requires first name, last name, and DOB. It also accepts the social security number (SSN) and alias names which are not required but may help in the search.

Mail In Request:

  1. To mail in a request, requesters should  furnish the following information:
    • First and last names (required)
    • DOB (required)
    • Aliases (if known)
    • SSN (if known)
  2. Mail in the request along with an enclosed money order or check of $15.00 to:

Montana Department of Justice
PO Box 201403
Helena, Montana 59620

In Person Request:

The same information is to be provided during an in person request as a mail in request and can be made on weekdays except holidays between 8.30AM to 4.30PM. Fee for this check is also $15.00 and the request is made at:

Investigations Division
2225 11th Ave
Helena, Montana 59601

Fingerprint-Based Search

It is possible to complete a personal fingerprint based check or someone else, but only after having a consent form signed by the subject of the record.

This check will include results for other states including:

  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

The steps below should be taken to complete this type of check:

1. An appointment to have fingerprints taken on a fingerprint card Form FD258 rev. 5-15-17 either at a participating local law enforcement agency (this should be confirmed by contacting them) or at the:24

Montana Department of Justice (MDOJ)
Division of Criminal Investigations Criminal Records
2225 11th Ave
Helena, Montana 59601

2. Pay the $5 fee to have these prints captured in addition to the background check processing fee of $10.00 which may be a check or money order.25 Fingerprint cards that are from law enforcement agencies will incur a $30.00 fee.

3. Mail and deliver the request to the same address as above and wait for 7-10 business days for the result.

A screenshot of Form FD258 rev.5.15.17, which uses to complete a personal fingerprint-based check or someone else's, but only after having a consent form signed by the subject of the record.
Source: Montana Department of Labor & Industry24

In addition to these sources, members of the public can also obtain arrest records from some county sheriff’s offices. Two examples are Billings County and Missoula County sheriff’s offices. Missoula County charges $15.00 which will be mailed to the address they have on their criminal history request form.

Summary of Background Checks in Montana (Professions & Volunteer Roles That Require Them)

While the general process of performing a background check is above, there are several agencies in Montana and each has varying submission requirements. These agencies typically request background checks for professions such as caregivers and those engaged in volunteer work to complete background screenings.

This also applies to the issuance of state licenses such as real estate appraisals and medical doctors.

As mentioned, these background checks are done by the Montana Department of Justice located at the Division of Criminal Investigation and ensure public safety.

The table below summarizes the different government agencies and the professions and volunteers that fall under them who are mandated to have background checks conducted. Links in the table provide more detailed information in the submission process for background checks for the respective agencies.

Agencies That Require Background Checks Screening Reasons
Montana Office of Public Instruction
  • Teachers and aides who have unsupervised contact with students in a public K-12 setting
  • Volunteers
  • School bus drivers
Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services
  • Adoptive parent applicants
  • Behavioral health community crisis centers
  • Behavioral health programs
  • Certified family homes
  • Children’s residential care facilities
  • Children’s therapeutic outdoor programs
  • Contracted non-emergency medical transportation providers
  • Court appointed guardians and conservators
  • Designated examiners and designated dispositioners
  • Developmental agencies
  • Emergency medical services
  • High risk providers of Medicaid
  • Home and community based services
  • Home health agencies
  • Behavioral health programs
  • Child care programs
  • Care facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities
  • Licensed foster cares
  • Licensed daycares
  • Mental health services
  • Non-hospital and medically-monitored detoxification units
  • Mental health diversion units
  • Personal assistance agencies
  • Personal care service providers
  • Residential care and assisted living facilities
  • Service coordinators and paraprofessional providers
  • Skilled nursing and Intermediate care Facilities
  • Support brokers
  • Community support workers
  • Volunteers
Montana Department of Labor & Industry
  • Alternative health care
  • Architects and landscape architects
  • Athletic trainers
  • Barbers & cosmetologists
  • Behavioral health
  • Boiler operator program
  • Chiropractors
  • Clinical laboratory science practitioners
  • Construction blaster program
  • Crane and/or hoisting operator program
  • Dentistry
  • Electrical
  • Elevator contractors, mechanics and Inspectors licensing program
  • Fire protection license program
  • Funeral service
  • Genetic counselor program
  • Hearing aid dispensers
  • Massage therapy
  • Medical examiners
  • Occupational therapy practice
  • Optometry
  • Outfitters
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical therapy examiners
  • Plumbers
  • Private security
  • Professional engineers and professional land surveyors
  • Psychologists
  • Public accountants
  • Radiologic technologists
  • Real estate appraisers
  • Realty regulation
  • Respiratory care practitioners
  • Sanitarians
  • Speech language pathologists and audiologists
  • Veterinary medicine
Montana Board of Medical Examiners
  • Dentistry
  • Dentistry
  • Dietitians
  • Physicians and surgeons
  • Physician assistants
  • Naturopathic medicine
  • Naturopathic healthcare
  • Nursing
  • Occupational therapy
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical therapy
  • Podiatry
  • Psychologist examiners
  • Respiratory therapy

While it is possible for members of the public to perform a background check on someone else in Montana for personal reasons without consent, background checks that are completed for professional purposes such as above must conform to the guidelines set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA mandates that employers obtain a consent to conduct background checks from potential employees.

In addition, it gives employees the right to review the results from the checks and rectify any mistakes and also to appeal any decisions that have been made resulting from the background checks which may affect them severely.

Guidelines like those set forth by the EEOC prohibit employers from conducting background checks and using the information gathered to undermine equal employment opportunity to potential employees.

How Do I See Whether or Not Someone Is on Probation or Parole in Montana?

The Montana Department of Corrections (MDOC) has just over 10,000 offenders who are under its supervision whether on probation or parole.

Finding records of a Montana parolee or looking up information of someone on probation in MT is fairly simple and free using the department’s Offender Search Tool, which is used to query the state’s parolee database which includes probations records as well.15 This tool can also be used to find state prisoners which will be delved into below.

A screenshot of the probation and parole search tool, which allows users to search for the records of convicted felons in the state of Montana.
Source: Montana Department of Corrections32

While this search feature above will allow users to obtain parole and probation information Montana Code § 46-23-1001 defines parole  as the release of an offender into the community under supervision and based on the decision of the parole board prior to the expiration of the prison term—probation on the other hand is a release that is ordered by the court without any form of imprisonment except as otherwise exempted by law.16

To illustrate just how many people are on probation and parole, the following image shows the combined total of probationers and parolees in Montana, along with their ethnicities.

Furthermore, these totals are also compared to the number of individuals on community supervision (including probation and parole) in other states across the United States.

An outline of a U.S. map with the combined population of adults on probation and parole in each state highlighted, with Montana having 1240; a bar graph in the bottom right corner showing the ethnic breakdown of the probationers and parolees, with categories for white, black, Hispanic, other, and unknown people in the state; and the website's logo in the bottom left corner.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

To locate an offender and perform a probation search, interested individuals should input either the last name or MDOC ID number. A sample query of this tool below shows offenders status which shows two offenders on probation and one on parole.

How Do I Go About Sealing or Expunging My Criminal Record in Montana?

There are generally two types of crimes that may be expunged in the state of Montana, these are:

  • Misdemeanor Convictions
  • Felony Crimes That are Related to Marijuana (recently introduced)

When records are sealed, they are not accessible except by court order—however, a record that has been expunged is one that has been physically and electronically been deleted.

Expungement of Misdemeanors & Marijuana-Related Felonies in Montana

As per Montana Code § 46-18-1104, offenders who have the desire to expunge misdemeanor convictions will need to satisfy certain requirements including:17

  • No attempt to expunge misdemeanor convictions before.
  • Five years have elapsed since the offender completed the terms of the sentence. Typically, the more time that has gone by, the likelihood of a successful expungement petition.
  • The individual submitting the petition must be fingerprinted in order to validate their identity.
  • If any victim was involved in the criminal record, they will be contacted and asked for their input.
  • The petitioner must pay and file the expungement petition in the District Court.

The Montana Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MMRTA) has made certain marijuana related activities once considered illegal, now civil infractions.18

As a result, offenders convicted of certain acts can now petition to have their records expunged; these include:

  • Criminal Possession of Marijuana
  • Criminal Possession of Marijuana With Intent To Distribute
  • Criminal Distribution of Marijuana
  • Criminal Destruction of Marijuana

These petitions unlike misdemeanor crimes have:

  • No waiting period
  • All petitions are categorized the same
  • Additional convictions are irrelevant
  • No need to contact victims

Expungement petitions will have 3 different outcomes:

  • An expungement of the record
  • Felony conviction now designated as a misdemeanor
  • Felony conviction now designated as a civil infraction

To file for an expungement, these steps should be taken:

  1. Petitioner should provide a copy of their criminal record obtained from the Montana Department of Justice (steps to do this are outlined below)
  2. Choose the appropriate form to fill. Form A is those currently serving a sentence and Form B is for those who have completed their sentence.
  3. A separate form must be filled for each conviction.
  4. Select the court where the conviction took place by using the Court Locator Tool, this is where the petition is filed. There is no need to attend court, although in some rare cases, a hearing may be held.
  5. The petitioner is responsible for all filing fees but may request a waiver if eligible for one due to economic hardship.
  6. County attorney will have 21 days to respond to the petition and issue a ruling.
A screenshot of the court location details in Miles City from Montana Court locator tool, where the users can select a country or city from the drop-down to see a list of courts that reside in that Judicial district.
Source: Montana Judicial Branch33

The main reason individuals may looking to seek to have their Montana arrest records expunged is mostly to do with the problems criminal records may cause when:

  • Seeking employment
  • Obtaining housing
  • The restoration of gun rights
  • Adoption
  • Education
  • The social stigma attached to having criminal records

If the petition to file an expungement is successful, the court’s conviction for misdemeanors and felonies will be removed and all court records relating to the offenses will be sealed by the court. Members of the public will only be able to access these records via a court order.

Sealing of Criminal Records (MT)

When criminal history records are sealed in Montana as per Montana Code § 46-18-204, the public will not have access to the record except by court order.19

Certain law enforcement agencies listed in Montana Code § 44-5-103 such as courts, sheriff’s offices and police departments will still have access to them. When non-conviction records are sealed, the record is deleted from the database; this includes the destruction of hard copies.20

A screenshot of the expungement removal request form, which allows the petitioner to put in a request with the Montana Criminal Records & Identification Services Section (CRISS) to remove all non-conviction records.
Source: Montana Department of Justice34

To file to have the records sealed:

    1. Conduct a Montana public criminal history record check via a mail in request.
    2. If the charges have been dismissed, acquitted, or the charges were not dropped or filed, the petitioner will need to put in a request with the Montana Criminal Records & Identification Services Section (CRISS) to remove all non-conviction quoting the Record Removal Form.
    3. Any charges that have been deferred to a sentence but the deferred sentence has not been removed will require the petitioner to contact the court to do the same.
    4. CRISS will take up to 30 days to process the request and send a letter explaining the outcome.

How Can I Find an Inmate Located in a Montana State Prison or Federal Facility?

Members of the public can easily find someone located in either federal prisons and state prisons located in the state due to databases maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the Montana Department of Corrections (MDOC) respectively.

Federal Prison Search

Montana does not have any federal prisons—however, requesters may still search for federal inmates who may be housed in out of state Federal Bureau of Prisons (BPO) facilities by using its Federal Prison Inmate Locator.21 This tool is free and easy to use.  It allows interested persons effortlessly find federal inmates using either last name or BOP Register Number.

A screenshot of the federal prison inmate locator tool, which allows users to locate the whereabouts of a federal inmate incarcerated from 1982 to the present.
Source: The Federal Bureau of Prisons35

Since Montana has no federal prisons, offenders who are convicted of federal crimes or have committed federal offenses such as drug trafficking will be moved to federal prisons out of state.

Montana State Prison Search

Montana has 5 state prisons that houses over 2500 inmates located within its borders and the Montana Department of Corrections (MDOC) overseas these facilities—members of the public can find inmates in its felony registry using its State Prisoner Locator Tool.22, 23

A screenshot of the facility's daily population from the Montana Department of Corrections website captures the total population of adults and youth in a certain facility.
Source: Montana Department of Corrections22

This tool can be accessed by the public for free and requires either the last name or Montana Department of Corrections ID Number to make a query. It typically displays information such as:

  • Current status
  • Mugshot
  • Last status change
  • Gender
  • Location of inmate
  • Physical characteristics
  • Charges
A screenshot of an inmate's information from the offender search tool that the public can access for free and requires either the last name or Montana Department of Corrections ID Number to make a query.
Source: Montana Department of Corrections36

Once found, Inmates can contacted through mail as discussed earlier and via Email which is a new service at Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities and is provided by Edovo; they are available at Montana State Prison, Pine Hills Correctional Facility and Montana Women’s Prison.5

There are policies that detail restrictions and requirement for email use and must be adhered to, failure to which email privileges will be revoked.

How Do I Check if I or Someone Else Has a Warrant in Montana?

Montana, unlike other states, does not have a central database where requesters can find information on warrants. Nevertheless, many of the counties and cities, particularly the sheriff’s offices and courts do maintain public records of outstanding and active warrants.

These law enforcement agencies may either maintain a warrant list online or can be contacted via phone; the table that summarizes county sheriff’s information above can be used to retrieve this information.

As an example, Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office maintains a warrant list which is updated often and gives information such as:

  • Name of the subject of the warrant
  • Offense
  • Bond amount
  • Court that issued the warrant
A screenshot of the warrant list, which is updated often, gives information such as the name of the subject of the warrant, the offense, the bond amount, and the court that issued the warrant.
Source: Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office37

In addition to the sheriff’s departments, members of the public can contact the clerk of the county courts when looking to find a warrant out for their arrest. This information is also provided at no cost to the public.

Anyone can review the instructions for looking up Montana warrant records on anyone wanted throughout the state for greater guidance.

How To Check the Montana Sexual or Violent Offender Registry (SVOR) for Nearby Offenders

Montana has passed the Sexual or Violent Offender Registration Act that requires sexual and certain violent offenders to register with the MDOC.26 Offenders will generally stay on the registry for life with the exception that the offender hasn’t broken a law for 10 years and/or the court deems the offender is no longer a threat to the community.27

The Montana Sexual Or Violent Offender Registration Unit gathers and collects records about registered sexual offenders registering agencies which may be courts, state and local correctional facilities, probation/and or parole agencies and from offenders directly.28

Members of the public can use the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry which is an online directory to search for sexual offenders using offender bio data or performing a location search. If interested individuals have specifics on an offender, then the registry can be a powerful tool that can be used to pinpoint a sexual offender’s location.

The location search works well as a people finder when a requester doesn’t have specifics on an offender, or is simply looking to bring up offenders within a certain radius. This can prove to be an effective way of keeping communities safe from sexual predators. A search using the tool below shows information such as:

  • Photograph (Mugshot) of the Offender
  • Offender’s Names & Aliases
  • Last Known Address
  • Offense
  • Court Cases
A screenshot of the sexual offender map displays information about offenders within a certain radius, including their photograph, name, address, and an option to view more details.
Source: Montana Sexual or Violent Offender Registry38

It is also possible for members of the public to sign for free alerts when a new offender moves into a community or other changes to registry status. They can do this by creating an account on the Montana State Government Website. To obtain more information about a sexual offender, they can perform a complete criminal history check for a fee using the process outlined earlier.

Montana Statues About Criminal Records, Arrest Records & Your Rights

The Montana Public Records Act and the Freedom for Information Act (FOIA) does give members of the public the right to access a large myriad of public records in the state whether they may be criminal records or arrest records, warrant information and sex, violent offender data and federal criminal history.

However, there are a number of laws that safeguard citizens’ rights by restricting the access of certain criminal records by the public including laws enforced by the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA).

  • FCRA—The FCRA has a 7 year look back rule that mandates that consumer reporting agencies limit the reporting of adverse information on an individual’s criminal history within the most recent 7 years. This rule will vary from state to state, and some states will have longer or shorter look back periods. Some will also have longer look back rules if the individual is earning above a certain threshold.
  • EEOC— While criminal convictions will still show in a background check, if an employer rejects an applicant due to a criminal conviction that happened years before the application, they may find themselves at loggerheads with the EEOC. This is because the EEOC enforces civil rights in the workplace to prevent discrimination on employees.
  • Juvenile Records—Certain records such as juvenile criminal records with the exception of felonies or those that are extreme in nature such as murder cases, or records that may jeopardize the safety of inmates and facility personnel cannot be accessed in the state of Montana as per the Montana Public Records Act.
  • Expunctions—Montana allows for the expungement of misdemeanor convictions due to Montana Code § 46-18-1104 and felony convictions relating to marijuana due to the Montana Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MMRTA). Once records are sealed and/or expunged, offenders may be able to legally deny conviction. However, it should be stated that law enforcement agencies will still have access to these records through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
  • Ban The Box—The state of Montana does not have a ban the box law in place but by decriminalizing marijuana related offenses, it has helped those with marijuana related convictions have a chance to expunge their records which helps them better their job prospects. This is especially true for employers who will not hire those with drug related criminal records pertaining to the use and distribution of marijuana.

Ban the box is a law pertaining to criminal background checks which prohibits employers from requesting potential employee’s criminal background and history in their job applications—rather this is reserved later in the hiring process, as a conditional offer of employment. In this way, job applicants are initially judged by their qualifications and merits minus the stigma of a criminal past.

It is permissible to perform personal named based criminal background checks with the exception of finger-print based searches. Nevertheless, if the checks are being done for professional purposes such as employment, property management, licensing etc., then requesters must abide by federal and local laws which include obtaining consent to perform these background checks.

Montana criminal records are spread over a number of government agencies that often makes it challenging to access—however with the right direction and having the know-how, it is possible to easily and quickly navigate government entities to access Montana arrest records in any county at little to no cost.


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23Corrections, M. D. (2023). Montana Department of Corrections. Retrieved 2023 <>


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37Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office. (n.d.). Retrieved June 7, 2023 <>

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