Montana Public Records
Located in the Western United States, Montana is the 4th largest of the U.S. states yet only the 44th most populous, with just over 1 million residents. Bordered on the north by Canada and on the South by Colorado, Montana contains many mountain ranges that are a part of the Rocky Mountains. Also, unofficially known as “Big Sky Country,” Montana is famous for its Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. The state government of Montana has long had provisions for the sharing of public records.
Table of Contents
Montana Public Records Laws
Montana passed its first public records law in 1895, just six years after attaining statehood. The law gave access to public records by statute but was broadened in 1972 when the state legislature re-wrote the Montana state constitution. This right is now written into the state constitution under Article II, Sections 8 and 9.
The Constitution provides that “any person”, regardless of citizenship, may have access to public records in Montana. The purpose of the request only matters in cases of potential invasion of privacy, and there is no restriction on the use of information once obtained.
The Act includes public records of the state government and its entities, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. There are exemptions, or things that you will not be able to obtain, and these include:
- Trade secrets
- Adoption records
- Safety and security-related records
- Criminal justice information
- Insurance company auditing reports
- Personal medical records
- Records made private by statute
Montana Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks
Background checks in Montana are the responsibility of the Montana Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. There are two types of criminal records reports in Montana. Law enforcement organizations can request a complete background check that includes warrants and criminal history in other states. The general public can request a background check on anyone through the state’s online web page that will return Montana convictions for felonies and misdemeanors.
It is also possible to get either a name-based criminal records check or a fingerprint-based criminal records check. The name-based check requires only a name, date of birth, and social security number of the person being checked. These can be requested online, in person, or by mail. The fingerprint-based check can only be requested via mail or in person.
Montana Jail and Inmate Records
The Montana Department of Corrections website has information for anyone looking to locate an inmate, find Victim Programs, or find other information on the correctional facilities in the state. Should you wish to locate an offender in the Montana system, the site has its own search page where you will be prompted to enter either a Department of Corrections ID Number or a First and Last Name. You’ll be given an image of the offender, if available, a list of their convictions, their current location, and their earliest release date.
Montana Court Records
Any information on courts and court cases in the state of Montana can be found on its administrator of the courts website. The only cases that can be searched online are the Montana Supreme Court cases. Other court case records will need to be requested at the appropriate courthouse.
Montana Vital Records
If you need a copy of a birth certificate or death certificate, you can obtain this through the Office of Vital Statistics, Montana Department of Health and Human Services. Birth and death records are available from 1907 to present. To order either one of these, you will need to prove relationship to the parties on the certificate. There are two ways to order these:
- Mail: Fill out the proper request form with the appropriate documentation and mail your request to: Office of Vital Records, Department of Public Health and Human Services, PO BOX 4210, Helena MT 59604
- Online: Order through the state’s partnership with VitalCheck.com.
Montana marriage and divorce certificates can only be obtained through the District Court Clerk in the county where the event occurred. Depending on the particular county, you may be able to request these by mail or in person.