Though a misdemeanor, a third offense DUI in Montana carries serious administrative and criminal penalties reflecting progressive legal punishment with each DUI conviction. Administrative penalties include fines plus court costs, license suspension and vehicle seizure. Criminal penalties include a minimum jail time.
The Law in Montana
In Montana, a .08 percent Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is the legal limit. If you test at this number or over you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). You will be asked to take a preliminary alcohol screening test to determine your blood alcohol content. You can refuse to take the screening test, but that will lead to an automatic DUI charge.
Each DUI conviction carries increasingly more severe penalties with the first 3 convictions leading to jail time, fines and license suspension. The third offense DUI also includes possible vehicle seizure. Unlike many other states, Montana considers the first 3 DUI convictions to be misdemeanors, and it is the fourth conviction that is a felony.
Montana Administrative and Criminal Penalties
A third DUI offense in Montana carries the following administrative penalties:
- $1,000 to $5,000 fine if all vehicle passengers are over 16 years old
- $2,000 to $10,000 if any vehicle passenger is under 16 years old
- Interlock device
- Driver’s license suspended for 1 year
- Vehicle seizure
The driver’s license suspension can be reduced to 45 days and vehicle seizure avoided if the person meets 2 requirements.
- Pays for leasing, installation and maintenance of an Ignition Interlock Device
- Completes a chemical dependency treatment program
The criminal penalties include the following:
- Minimum jail time of 30 days if all passengers are over 16 years old
- Minimum jail time of 60 days if any passenger under 16 years old
- Sentence of up to 1 year in jail
All but 10 days of the jail sentence may be suspended if the person completes the chemical dependency treatment program.
Plea Options and Lookback Period
As a defendant after arrest, you will enter a plea at an arraignment. You have the choice of pleading guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere. Nolo contendere is the legal term for what is commonly called a “no contest” plea. In a no contest plea you are not saying if you agree or disagree with the charges.
The state of Montana has a look back period of 5 years. This means that any DUI conviction in the last 5 years will be considered when determining the level of offense.
Consult an Attorney Immediately
It is important to hire an experienced lawyer familiar with Montana DUI laws. It is also critical that you retain an attorney as soon as possible after arrest. A third DUI offense is a misdemeanor, but it is costly one due to the fines, court costs, and expenses associated with the ignition interlock device and treatment program, and the required jail time. An attorney will work to negotiate the best terms possible given the elements of your case.