Montana strictly prohibits the offense of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. To encourage motorists to drive sober, the state uses a range of laws to punish those who do drive after drinking or taking drugs.
Drivers in Montana can avoid getting a DUI charge and conviction by understanding the legal limits for their blood alcohol content levels. They also can benefit from knowing what penalties that the state metes out for people convicted of DUI in Montana.
DUI in Montana
Montana has several definitions for the act of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. The standard or per se definition for DUI is having a blood alcohol content or BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.
However, the law in Montana also defines DUI as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It also involves driving with an excessive THC concentration of 5 ng/ml in one’s blood. THC is the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.
Like several states, Montana has a washout or look back period for DUI of 10 years. Someone who committed and was found guilty of DUI in Montana or any other state more than 10 years ago cannot have that prior offense taken into consideration when penalties are devised for the person’s current DUI charge.
Montana also allows for a DUI to be charged as an aggravated offense if it meets certain criteria. The requirements for aggravated DUI in Montana include:
- Having a BAC of 0.16 percent or higher
- Committing a DUI while having a suspended or revoked drivers’ license
- Committing a DUI while being ordered to use an ignition interlock device or IID
- Refusing to comply with an officer’s request for a blood, urine or blood sample
- Committing a DUI within 10 years of the last DUI conviction
- Having a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle while driving under the influence
Montana uses different laws to define and punish DUIs for underage drivers. Drivers under the age of 21 must have a BAC of lower than 0.02 percent to avoid a DUI charge.
DUI Penalties in Montana
The penalties that a driver faces after being charged with and found guilty of DUI in Montana depend on the number of prior convictions on the person’s record. They also depend on the whether or not that the DUI meets the criteria for an aggravated DUI.
A first-time DUI conviction in Montana garners a fine of $300 to $1000 and a jail term of 24 hours to six months. A second offense includes punishments like a jail sentence of seven days to one year and a fine of $600 to $1000. A third DUI conviction in Montana results in a fine of $1000 to $5000 as well as a jail term of 30 days to one year.
Someone who is convicted of an aggravated DUI in Montana can face additional penalties. On top of regular DUI punishments, the offender can pay an additional $1000 fine and serve up to a year in jail.
Underage DUI offenders will not face jail time. However, they are still subject to civil fines. The fine for driving under the influence when the motorist is under the age of 21 ranges from $100 to $500 depending on the age of the driver, his or her BAC level, and the number of prior DUI arrests on his or her record.
Use of an Ignition Interlock Device or IID
Judges also have the discretion of suspending offenders’ drivers’ licenses for at least six months depending on factors like the number of prior DUI convictions in the last 10 years and whether or not the DUI met aggravated criteria. Drivers who have their licenses suspended can request the state to issue a restricted license during the suspension period, however.
The restricted license will be issued with the agreement that the offender use an IID on all of his or her vehicles. The IID must be installed by a state-approved installer at the offender’s expense.
This courtesy is only permitted for offenders who comply with field sobriety or chemical testing. People who refuse chemical testing under the state’s implied consent laws may have to use an IID but do not qualify to have a restricted license issued to them during the suspension period.
Montana forbids the act of driving a motor vehicle after taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Drivers can face harsh penalties like jail time and loss of their licenses if they are found guilty of this crime.
Underage drivers likewise can pay expensive fines for driving under the influence. The state’s implied consent laws require drivers to provide samples of their breath, urine, or blood as ordered by law enforcement during traffic stops with probable cause.