Need to know Montana DUI Laws

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.

Implied Consent

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 below .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.

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