Under Montana DUI laws, you can be arrested for and charged with DUI if you’re found to be operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content level .08 percent. The legal limit is .04 percent for commercial drivers. Montana is also a zero-tolerance state, which means drivers under the age of 21 are not allowed to have any alcohol in their system. A BAC greater than .00 percent could result in a DUI for individuals under 21. DUI charges can also apply if a police officer finds a driver asleep in a car. A driver may be aware that they are too drunk to drive and pull over the car to “sleep it off.” If a police officer discovers the driver, he or she could charge the driver with DUI because the driver was in control of the car and had the ability to drive it if they desired.
Montana is an implied consent state, which means drivers are assumed to consent to sobriety testing by driving a vehicle in the state. If you are arrested by an officer who has probable cause for DUI, then you must submit to the sobriety test of the officer’s choosing or face automatic penalties. The officer can perform multiple tests if he or she finds it necessary. For example, the officer could ask you to perform a standard field sobriety test and a breathalyzer at the time of the arrest. The officer could then use those results as probable cause to perform a blood test later. Montana law states that the tests should be performed as soon as possible, but doesn’t provide an exact time frame.
The penalties for refusing a breathalyzer increase with multiple instances within a five year period. The first instance results in a six-month license suspension and one day in jail. The suspension increases to one year on all following refusals. The jail time increases to five days for the second refusal and 10 days for the third.
Some individuals believe that refusing a BAC test reduces the chances of a DUI conviction because the police and prosecutors would not have physical evidence. However, that’s not necessarily true in Montana. Prosecutors can use the fact that you refused the test as evidence that you were drunk and didn’t want to submit evidence.
Montana DUI Penalties
Under Montana DUI laws, DUI charges are misdemeanors up until the fourth conviction, at which point the charge becomes a felony. Penalties increase with every subsequent conviction. Generally, a first-time DUI will result in 24 hours to six months in jail, a $300 to $1,000 fine, a six-month license suspension, a possible interlock installation on your car and completion of a chemical dependency course. Any of those penalties could increase with the second or third convictions. The jail time and fines can also be increased if you have a passenger under the age of 16 in the car. On the fourth felony conviction, you could face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Montana?
The legal alcohol limit in Montana .is .08 percent, the same amount that applies to drivers throughout the U.S. It’s important to note, however, a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) can result if a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent and law enforcement has sufficient evidence of impairment.
Some drivers are subject to stricter BAC levels. Commercial vehicle drivers, for instance, must observe a limit of .04 percent, while motorists not of legal drinking age can be charged with a BAC as low as .02 percent.
Penalties for driving under the influence are very severe in the state of Montana and may include:
- For a first offense, jail time of up to six months, a fine of $1,000 and a license suspension of six months
- For a second conviction, a jail sentence of one year, a fine of $2,000 and loss of driving privileges for one year
- For a third offense, a jail term of one year, a fine of up to $10,000 and a license suspension of one year.
Enhanced penalties can apply for aggravated offenses. Some reasons this level of charge may be brought include when a BAC is .16 percent or higher, a driver’s license was suspended or a prior conviction is on a person’s record.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In Montana
An ignition interlock device (IID) is installed on a vehicle and requires a passing breath sample before the engine will start. The state can mandate that people convicted of DUI use an IID before driving privileges are reinstated.
Under Montana law:
- Following a first offense, a judge’s discretion determines whether installation of an ignition interlock device is required.
- A second conviction (and any subsequent offense) requires the use of IID.
- The costs associated with an IID are the responsibility of the person convicted.
Most people eligible to install an ignition interlock device choose to do so given that it is the only way to reinstate driving privileges.
Montana DUI Penalties
As in other states, the state of Montana stipulates that it is illegal for persons aged 21 and older to drive with a BAC of .08 percent or greater. Drivers under the age of 21 may face Montana DUI penalties if their BAC is .02 or greater, and commercial drivers with a BAC of .04 percent or greater may also be charged with DUI.
Montana has a five-year “lookback” period in which prior offenses are taken into consideration when determining penalties. Certain offenders may be allowed the option of a plea bargain for a lesser charge of reckless driving involving alcohol or wet reckless.
Like all states, Montana has an implied consent law that authorizes police to subject drivers suspected of DUI to blood, breath or urine tests for drugs and alcohol. Persons who refuse to consent to chemical testing are subjected to fines and automatic suspension of their driver’s licenses. First-time refusals are penalized by a 6-month suspension. Second and subsequent refusals are penalized by a one-year suspension, and a court-ordered ignition interlock device may be installed and maintained at the driver’s expense.
First DUI Offense
A first-time DUI conviction is punishable by between 24 hours and six months of jail time with an additional 24 hours to six months added if a minor under the age of 16 was a passenger. A driver’s license suspension of six months and a fine of between $300 and $1,000 may be imposed, and these fines may double if a minor was a passenger. Other Montana DUI penalties include the installation of an ignition interlock device at the judge’s discretion and completion of a chemical dependency course or treatment program.
Second DUI Offense
A second DUI conviction is punishable by a one-year license suspension and a fine of between $600 and $1,000, which doubles if a minor under the age of 16 was a passenger. Also, between seven days and six months of jail time may be imposed, and this may double if a minor was a passenger. A probationary license may be obtained after 45 days, and the driver must complete a chemical dependency course or treatment program. The driver may drive with the use of an ignition interlock device for which he or she assumes all financial responsibility or the vehicle may be seized and forfeited to the state.
Third or Fourth DUI Offense
A third DUI conviction in Montana is punishable by a one-year license suspension and a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, which doubles if a minor under the age of 16 was a passenger. Also, between 30 days and one year of time in custody may be imposed, and it increases to from 60 days to one year if a minor was a passenger. A probationary license may be obtained after 45 days, and the driver must complete a chemical dependency course or treatment program as with prior offenses. The driver may drive with the use of an ignition interlock device at his or her own expense.
A fourth conviction is considered a felony that is punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Aggravated DUI in Montana
Montana DUI penalties may be more severe for those charged and convicted of aggravated DUI. Such a charge is imposed because authorities believe an individual has a higher risk of reoffending because he or she has prior DUI convictions, prior violations of the implied consent statute or a suspended license, or the person may have registered a BAC greater than or equal to .16 percent or may already be subject to IID restrictions.