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Montana Criminal Law: An Overview

Regardless of which side of the court you’re on in a criminal lawsuit, you could benefit from a better understanding of Montana’s criminal laws. By studying the laws affecting your case and collaborating with an attorney, you could bolster your defense or prosecution to best protect your rights.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Montana’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a Montana criminal law attorney in Billings, Missoula, Great Falls or elsewhere in the state.

Crime Classifications in Montana

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Montana has two main criminal offense classifications: felonies and misdemeanors.

To easily understand how crimes are classified, simply look to their severity and their penalties. Felonies are the most serious crimes that are sentenced to imprisonment for one year or longer. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes that carry sentences of less than a year of imprisonment. Both types of crimes may include fines in their sentences. Only the most serious felonies are penalized with the death sentence.

There are no general sentencing guidelines for felonies and misdemeanors. There are no sub-classifications of felonies and misdemeanors, either. Every offense carries its own sentence as determined by Montana’s statutes.

Montana DUI Offenses

It’s illegal to drive while impaired by alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs or narcotics in Montana. Montana also enforces “per se” DUI (driving under the influence) laws, which means that even if you’re not visibly impaired while driving, you could still be charged with a DUI if you exceed legal intoxication limits:

  • A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or more for drivers age 21 years or older.
  • A BAC level 0.02 percent or more for drivers under 21 years of age.
  • A marijuana intoxication level of 5 ng/ml of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or more for any driver, regardless of age or whether you’re a legal card holder with Montana’s Marijuana Program.

You could also still receive a DUI if the police determine that you are under the influence of intoxication even if your BAC or THC levels are below the legal limits.

Your first DUI conviction could result in a $600 to $1,000 fine (excluding legal costs), a six-month driver’s license suspension and between 24 hours and six months of jail time. Your driver record will also have 10 conviction points permanently added for each offense. After receiving 30 points, you’ll be charged as a habitual traffic offender and will have your driver’s license revoked. The court may sentence additional penalties like an ignition interlock device and treatment.

Montana Marijuana Crimes

The possession and use of marijuana for medical use is legal and decriminalized in Montana. Marijuana used for recreational purposes is still illegal in the state, however. Marijuana is a Schedule I dangerous drug in Montana, so any unauthorized possession, sale or use of marijuana is illegal and penalized by state law.

Residents with a qualifying debilitating medical condition such as glaucoma or multiple sclerosis can register to receive an ID card through the state Marijuana Program. This allows them to purchase, possess and use specific amounts of marijuana from a registered dispenser to treat their condition. Their ID card won’t shield them from the penalties of breaking Montana’s drug and DUI crimes, however, and it can be revoked.

Illegal possession of up to 60 grams of marijuana or 1 gram of hashish is a misdemeanor offense with a sentence of a fine between $100 and $500 plus up to 6 months of imprisonment. Penalties are doubled for a second offense and increased exponentially if you intended to distribute marijuana.

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