Montana – Small State Population, Big DUI Penalty

Montana DUI law defines "under the influence" as the diminished ability of a person to operate a motor vehicle due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of both. Usually, prosecutors will try to prove that the person is under the influence and unable to operate their vehicle safely using a variety of physical characteristics as evidence such as driving patterns, results of field sobriety tests, physical appearance, and chemical test results. In some cases, under "per se" laws, a conviction can be based solely on chemical test results.

In the state of Montana, an officer can make an arrest for the following drunk driving offenses:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or combination of these
  • Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater
  • If under 21, driving with a BAC of .02 or greater
  • If a commercial vehicle driver, driving with a BAC of .04 or greater

Montana DUI Penalties

Court Fines Potential Jail Time License Suspension
1st Conviction $300-1,000 1 day -6 months
6 months
2nd Conviction $600-1,000 7 days - 6 months
1 year
3rd Conviction $1000-5000 30 days - 1 year Minimum of 1 year

Consequences of DUI Court Conviction

Typically, punishment for a DUI conviction in Montana includes driver's license revocation and suspension, fines, jail time, and enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program. An offender may also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device. The IID forces a driver to pass a breath test with a BAC of no more than 0.02 per cent before he or she can start their vehicle and drive. In addition to being subjected to the device, a driver will need to pay installation, maintenance, and monthly rental costs of the device.

Montana is also stricter than most other states in cases where excessive BAC percentages are involved. Most states give stiffer penalties for offenders who test at 0.20 per cent, but Montana significantly increases the penalties at 0.16 per cent. It is referred to as an aggravated DUI in Montana and results in harsher consequences for the offender.

Driving Repercussions

Administrative license revocation and suspension is normally for a period of six months on the first offense, and one year on the second and third offenses. Both mandatory alcohol education and assessment/treatment are required, and vehicle confiscation normally occurs on the third offense.

Consequences for Commercial Drivers

Penalties are much stiffer for a commercially licensed individual in Montana. If they are convicted of a DUI or other alcohol related offense, they could possibly be facing a lifetime suspension.

Chemical Testing and Implied Consent Laws

The "Implied Consent" Law applies to every driver in the state of Montana. The law states that any licensed person operating a motor vehicle automatically gives his or her consent to an approved test (blood, breath, or urine) for the purposes of showing intoxication.

Unlike other states, Montana also includes implied consent to the Preliminary Alcohol Screening test (or PAS test). The PAS test is conducted in order to estimate the person's BAC level whenever an officer of the law is suspicious of the driver's condition. This test is mandatory if requested by an officer in Montana. Refusal is punishable and admissable in court.

Refusing to take a chemical test will result in a driver losing his or her license immediately and 6 months to 1 year license suspension.

Chemical tests must be administered by approved personnel according to standards set by the forensic science division of the Department of Justice in order to be admissable in court. Blood tests must be carried out by a doctor, nurse, or other supervised qualified personnel. In addition, a driver accused of a DUI offense has the right to request a second, independent, chemical test at his or her own expense.

If you are arrested for DUI, it is important to contact a DUI attorney who can advise you on your situation.

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