Measure Strips Jail Time for Some Minor Offenses

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A measure to eliminate jail time for some fist-time misdemeanor offenses, leaving just fines in place, is cruising through the Montana state Senate.

The proposal would mean that the state would no longer have to provide public defenders for those charged with the crimes.

Backers say it would save money, ease crowding in jails and free up busy public defenders. It was unanimously endorsed Friday by the full the Senate.

The list of offenses includes theft of less than $1,500, writing bad checks involving less than $1,500, public nuisance, and driving without a license or insurance. Currently, the crimes carry the threat of up to six months in jail.

The bill reduces maximum prison time for disorderly conduct from 10 days to three days.

County attorneys are opposing the measure.

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