Drunk Driving Defense Laws in Montana

A drunk driving charge is a serious offense regardless of the state, but Montana has some especially strict penalties. If you are facing these types of charges, you should consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can be an advocate for you in the process. After you learn about how your state handles drunk driving arrests, you can find a knowledgeable Montana DUI defense attorney to help resolve your case.

Montana Drunk Driving Laws

Montana law says a person may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs by driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle with the diminished ability to safely operate or with a Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. A chemical test showing a driver has a BAC of .04% but less than .08% is used as a factor in the proceedings but does not automatically determine whether a person was under the influence or not.

It is unlawful for a driver under the age of 21 to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02% or more.

A first driving while under the influence offense in Montana is a misdemeanor, but the state does have other statutes regarding drunk driving and causing physical harm or death to a person, which can be charged as felonies.

Implied Consent: Yes

Enhanced Penalties: BAC of .16% or higher; prior convictions in the past 10 years; driving under the influence with a child under the age of 16 years old in the car; causing an accident resulting in serious bodily harm or death

All DUI convictions in Montana are subject to substance abuse evaluation, treatment, and classes, along with the use of an ignition interlock device (IID). Other penalties depend on the number of prior convictions or other aggravating circumstances. Montana law does provide minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines including:

  • First offense: Not less than 24 consecutive hours nor more than six months imprisonment, a $600 to $1,000 fine, and a six-month license suspension
  • Second offense: Not less than 7 days to no more than 1-year imprisonment, a $1,200 to $2,000 fine, a one-year license suspension, and potentially vehicle forfeiture.
  • Third offense: Not less than 30 days to one-year imprisonment, a $2,500 to $5,000 fine, a one-year license suspension, and potentially vehicle forfeiture.

A fourth or subsequent offense is a felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison  along with fines between $5,000 to $10,000. If the court determines that you meet the specific requirements, you may have this prison sentence suspended and be sentenced to participate and complete an appropriate court treatment program for up to five years.

Drunk Driving Traffic Stops in Montana

Law enforcement officers are trained to look for certain signs that could indicate a driver might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Signs of dangerous driving include a driver’s inability to stay in one lane, swerving between lanes, running a red light, or speeding. If you are suspected of driving while under the influence, and pulled over, an office will look for further signs, including:

  • Slurred or thick speech
  • Red or bloodshot, watery eyes
  • A disheveled appearance
  • A red or flushed face
  • There is a distinct odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath

If an officer detects any of these things, a driver could be asked to submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol level (BAC).

Defending Against Montana DUI Charges

An experienced lawyer who has DUI defense experience will thoroughly analyze all of the evidence in your case and determine whether the officers involved violated any of your constitutional rights. All aspects of the investigation will be scrutinized. Depending on the situation, first offenders can negotiate reduced penalties.

Obviously, the best DUI defense against a drunk driving charge is not to need one. However, in the event that you are charged with driving under the influence in Montana, understanding the charges, as well as, knowing the possible penalties can help you determine the best course of action for your particular case.

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