Montana

 

History of Legislation

2017:  HB 133

On May 4, 2017, Governor Steve Bullock signed into law HB 133, a general revision of Montana’s sentencing laws that affects several mandatory minimum penalties.

Specifically, HB 133 reduces from 25 years to ten years the mandatory portion of sentences for sexual abuse of a victim under the age of 12. Under the bill, after ten years offender may become eligible for parole, and the remainder of the sentence may be suspended or deferred by a judge. The bill also eliminates a statutory exception to the mandatory sentence for sexual abuse of victims under the age of 12.

HB 133 also reforms sentencing for theft crimes. The new law creates a tiered system of punishment based on the value of the property stolen and the number of prior convictions. Specifically, HB 133 reduces from 30 days to five days the mandatory sentence for a third or subsequent conviction for theft of property valued at less than $1,500, and establishes a two-year mandatory minimum for theft of property valued between $1,500 and $5,000.

HB 133 also establishes a similar tiered system for various other theft-related offenses. For instance, the bill creates a two-year minimum sentence for a third or subsequent conviction for:

  • Failure to return rented or leased personal property valued between $,1500 and $5,000;
  • Issuing a bad check between $500 and $5,000 in value;
  • Deceptive practices where the property, labor, or services obtained (or attempted to be obtained) are valued between $1,500 and $5,000;
  • Forgery where the property, labor, or services obtained (or attempted to be obtained) are valued between $1,500 and $5,000; and
  • Identity theft where the economic benefit that was gained (or attempted to be gained) is valued between $1,500 and $5,000.

HB 133 repeals the mandatory minimums for the following offenses:

  • Criminal distribution of dangerous drugs (defined as a “drug, substance, or immediate precursor in Schedules I through V”);
  • Distributing dangerous drugs to a minor;
  • Criminal possession of an opiate;
  • Criminal possession with intent to distribute opiates;
  • Criminal production or manufacture of a dangerous drug; and
  • Production or manufacture of marijuana.

Finally, HB 133 reforms Montana’s “Persistent Felony Offender” sentencing law. Prior to HB 133, Montana statutes provided for a five-year mandatory sentence for “persistent felony offenders,” defined as any offender who commits a second felony offense within five years of a conviction for a previous felony offense, or within five years of the offender’s release from prison on a prior felony conviction.     

HB 133 keeps the mandatory minimum sentence, but redefines “persistent felony offender” to mean any offender “who has previously been convicted of two separate felonies and who is presently being sentenced for a third felony committed on a different occasion than either of the first two felonies.” The new law also requires at least one of the three felonies to be a sexual or a violent offense.

How You Can Advocate for Sentencing Reform in Your State

You can do several things to work toward reforming your state’s sentencing laws – go to our get involved page to find out how.

Encourage your state lawmakers to support mandatory minimum sentencing reform. Be sure to connect with FAMM and other sentencing reformers on Facebook, Twitter, and by signing up for our email list.

Sentencing/Criminal Justice Reform Groups in this State: