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.