DUIs in Montana … part two

201612.18
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What happens if you are convicted of DUI?

The 2015 Montana Legislature made several changes to Montana’s DUI laws.  These changes include doubling minimum fines for convictions and increasing maximum sentences for DUI offenders.

Under current Montana law, a person convicted of DUI will be subject to a minimum fine of $600 for a first offense, $1,200 for a second offense, and $2,500 for a third offense.  These minimum fines are doubled to $1,200, $2,400 or $5,000 if a child under 16 is in the vehicle at the time.

In addition to fines, a person convicted of DUI will be punished by imprisonment for a minimum of 24 hours for a first offense, 7 days for a second offense, and 30 days for a third offense.  These minimum prison sentences are also doubled if a child under 16 is in the vehicle at the time.

What are the issues involved if you are charged with a DUI?

It is important to remember that the standard field sobriety tests, i.e. walking a straight line and standing on one foot, are not intended to prove your innocence – they are intended to build a case against you.  There are specific requirements to administering these tests, however, and a court may suppress the results of these tests if they are not administered correctly.

There are additional issues involved in proving a charge for DUI, including the use of the breathalyzer test.  For example, a justice court suppressed the results of the Intoxilyzer 8000 based on potential radio frequency interference and the State’s failure to test and corroborate the machine.  These are machines and they can fail.

In that case, the justice court found that the State violated the defendant’s due process rights because there was no administrative rule providing a safeguard for the location of the breath analysis instrument.  The court explained that the current administrative rule, requiring an adequate operational environment for the breath analysis instrument, was so vague it was considered a nullity.  The court found that the location of the instrument had never been inspected by the State Crime Lab and that the State provided no evidence that the instrument would work when the frequencies used by smart phones or police hand held radios are present.  (See State v. Harrison, Cause No. TK-2012-4880).

The “eye test” is often given improper evidential value in court.  The courts routinely recognize police officers as experts in determining that alcohol or drugs caused a person’s Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus.  The officer’s training and experience in making this highly scientific determination must not go unchallenged in many cases.

Each DUI has its own set of issues that may impact the outcome of the individual case.  You don’t have to face these issues alone.

Call us, we can help.

The attorneys at Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley have tried hundreds of DUI cases.  Their collective knowledge and experience will help you figure out your options, navigate the criminal trial, and move on with your life.