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. Anyone who is facing these types of charges should consider speaking with a legal professional to create a vigorous defense. Like the other 49 states, Montana considers a blood alcohol level of 0.08 the legal level of intoxication, and those who have BACs of 0.08 or higher will be charged with driving under the influence or DUI. For drivers under 21, the BAC is 0.02, and for those driving commercial vehicles, it's 0.04.

What Officers Look For

Law enforcement officers are trained to look for certain signs that could indicate a driver might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A few of the things that might prompt an officer to pull a driver over include a driver's inability to stay in one lane, swerving between lanes, disregarding other traffic laws such as running a red light or stop sign, or speeding. If a driver is pulled over, an office will look for further signs, including:

  • Slurred or thick speech
  • Red or glassy eyes
  • A disheveled appearance
  • Driver's face is red and flushed
  • There is a distinct odor of alcohol on the driver's breath

If an officer detects any of these things, a driver could face a DUI charge.

Possible Penalties if Convicted

It is important to note that a person with a BAC less than 0.08 can still be charged with DUI if the officer observes any of the above symptoms for DUI.

If a Montana driver is charged with DUI, the possible penalties for a conviction can vary depending on other circumstances and previous experiences with the court. A first offense could result in a maximum sentence of between 24 hours and six months in jail and a fine between $300 and $1,000. For repeat offenders, a person could face between 30 days and one year in jail, and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000.

Along with the legal ramifications, drivers can also lose their licenses. For a DUI first offense, a driver's license can be suspended for up to six months. For a second offense that occurs within 50 years of the first offense, a license can be suspended for a year. Also, repeat offenders could be required to participate in the Montana 24/7 Sobriety Program, a program that requires drivers to undergo BAC testing throughout the day. Those under 21 who are found guilty could be sentenced to community service and lose their license up until they turn 21.

Defending Against the Charges

When mounting a defense against DUI charges, an experienced legal professional will attempt to call the actions of the officer in question during the stop and subsequent arrest. All aspects of the investigation will be scrutinized. Depending on the situation, a plea deal could be negotiated or a request for the minimal punishment could be made, especially for first offenders.

Obviously, the best defense against a drunk driving charge is not to need one. However, in the event that a person is charged with driving under the influence in Montana, understanding the charges as well as knowing the possible penalties can help a person determine the best course of action for one's personal situation.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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