DUIs in Montana … part one

201612.16
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Many Montanans enjoy a drink with friends and many good people may be driving under the influence and not even know it.  If you find yourself charged with DUI, it is important to understand your rights.

What is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

In Montana, it is illegal for a person who is under the influence of:

  • Alcohol to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle upon ways of the state;
  • A dangerous or other drug to drive or be in actual physical control of this vehicle within this state;
  • Alcohol and any dangerous or other drug to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state.

Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher (i.e., drunk drivers) are considered under the influence by law.  In other words, the state must prove EITHER you were impaired OR your BAC was greater than 0.08%.

What if you refuse to take breath test in Montana?

Montana has an “implied consent” law.  The theory behind implied consent is that driving is a privilege, and by using that privilege you consent to submit to a chemical alcohol test (breath or blood).

Under this law, if you refuse to submit to a chemical alcohol test you will be subject to a fine of $300 and automatic license suspension.  The state may also use proof of a person’s refusal as evidence in a subsequent criminal action.  The jury may infer from the refusal that the person was under the influence.

Under the automatic license suspension, your license will be suspended for sixth months and you will not be able to get a restricted probationary license.  This means you will not be allowed to drive for any reason during your suspension.

There may, however, be an alternative to this automatic suspension.  Under Montana law, a person has 30 days to petition to challenge the license suspension in the district court.  At the hearing, the court will determine whether the person is entitled to a license based on the following:

  • Whether the peace officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a vehicle upon ways of this state open to the public under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two;
  • Whether the peace officer had probable cause to believe the person was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and involved in an accident; and
  • Whether the person refused to submit to one or more tests designated by the officer.

Based on those issues, the court may either reinstate the person’s license, or uphold the suspension.  If your license has been suspended resulting from your refusal to submit to chemical testing, your time to challenge that suspension is limited.