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The Montana DUI Guide


For Attorneys



Billings, MT



Driving under the Influence of Alcohol

 Criminal Charges


Motor Vehicles Division



Per Se







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I just got arrested for a State of Montana DUI offense.  What happens now?


ISSUE ONE:  The Montana Implied Consent Proceeding:  Your Montana license (or your right to drive in Montana if you're not a Illinois license driver) was most likely suspended for anywhere from six months to one year if you refused a breath (or other chemical) test.  Read your paperwork carefully.  This suspension typically begins on the 5th day following your arrest.   If you would like to challenge this suspension, you or your attorney must file a petition to challenge the license suspension or revocation in the district court in the county where the arrest was made.



ISSUE TWO:  The Montana DUI Criminal Case:  Separate from the suspension for refusing a breath test is the criminal charge for DUI


In Montana, it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of alcohol, drug(s), or a combination of alcohol and drugs to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle.  "Under the influence" means that as a result of taking into the body alcohol, drugs, or any combination of alcohol and drugs, a person's ability to safely operate a vehicle has been diminished. If you had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more, Montana law allows an inference that you were under the influence of alcohol. This inference is rebuttable.  However . . .


It is also unlawful for any person to drive or be in actual physical control of a noncommercial vehicle upon the ways of this state open to the public while the person's alcohol concentration, as shown by analysis of the person's blood, breath, or urine, is 0.08 percent or more.  This is sometimes referred to as a per se DUI.

Note:  It is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 who has an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or more to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle upon ways of this state open to the public.


Important:  The implied consent proceeding and the criminal DUI case are completely separate from one another. 


Will my Montana driver license be revoked / suspended?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Montana driver license (or your right to drive in Montana if you do not have a valid Montana license) may be suspended for six to twelve months for refusing a chemical test for alcohol and / or drugs.  Again, you may challenge this suspension by filing a petition with the court within 30 days of your arrest.  Filing the petition will not necessarily overturn the suspension; rather, it merely provides you with a chance to overturn the suspension.  If you file a petition to challenge the suspension, you can ask the court to stay the suspension pending the outcome of your appeal.



RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the DUI charge, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Montana if you don't have a valid Montana license) for six months to twelve months.  This suspension is separate and distinct from the implied consent suspension.  Talk to your Montana DUI lawyer for possible suspension and revocation lengths for your situation.



Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to a Montana DUI arrest e.g. excessive points etc.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended / revoked?


Driving while your license is suspended or revoked should be avoided as it is a new crime.  Penalties include jail (2 days to 6 months) a fine of up to $2,000, and up to 40 hours of community service.  Additionally, a conviction results in an additional one year license suspension.  If you're still on supervision (probation) for DUI, driving while suspended or revoked is a probation violation (PV) and can result in additional sanction.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted / occupational / conditional / probationary license?


Possibly.  A restricted probationary license may be available to you depending on your situation.  [A restricted probationary license is not available if you refused to submit to a chemical (breath) test.]  Speak to your Montana DUI lawyer about whether you qualify and how to apply for a restricted probationary license.


What is the difference between a DUI, DWI, OWI, DWAI, OUI, etc.?


These acronyms all refer to the offense commonly known as drunk driving.  Different states have different names for the crime.  For example, in Texas the charge is known as "driving while intoxicated" or DWI.  Wyoming uses the phrase "driving while under the influence" or DWUI.  Most states including Idaho, the Dakotas, and Montana use the phrase "driving while under the influence" or DUI. 


Is a DUI offense in Montana a misdemeanor or felony crime?


In Montana, a DUI offense is usually a misdemeanor crime.  However, a fourth or greater DUI is a felony offense.  Refer to the chart below.


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of an Montana DUI charge?


Upon conviction of an Montana DUI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol screening / treatment / education.  A range of penalties is set forth below.  Note:  Penalties listed below are for DUI offenses; penalties vary slightly for a conviction of the crime of driving with excessive alcohol concentration (Per Se Violations). 



  • between 1 and 180 days jail;
  • between $300 and $1000 fine;
  • six month MT license suspension.
child under 16 car
  • between 2 and 365 days jail;
  • between $600 and $2000 fine;
  • six month MT license suspension.
prior conviction w/in past five years
  • between 7 and 180 days jail;
  • between $600 and $1000 fine;
  • one year MT license suspension.
prior conviction w/in past five years
child under 16 in car
  • between 14 and 365 days jail;
  • between $1200 and $2000 fine;
  • one year MT license suspension.
prior conviction w/in past five years
  • between 30 and 365 days jail;
  • between $1000 and $5000 fine;
  • one year MT license suspension.
prior conviction w/in past five years
child under 16 in car

  • between 60 and 365 days jail;
  • between $2000 and $10,000 fine;
  • one year MT license suspension.

or one prior of vehicular homicide while DUI
  • 13 month prison sentence;
  • substantial fine;
  • one year MT license revocation.

Will my DUI lawyer be able to defer my Montana DUI / Per Se Offense?

Montana DUI and Per Se violations cannot be deferred by sentence or by prosecution.  A plea to a different offense such as negligent endangerment may be possible however.

Will a Montana DUI go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  A DUI conviction will go on your Montana driving record and will stay on your record forever.  An insurance company can typically consider only the most recent three years of your driving record however.

Just how much jail / prison time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DUI offense in Montana?

The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your prior DUI history (including any DUI's / DWI's outside of Montana);

•  your level of intoxication; breath / blood alcohol content;

•  whether there was a collision involved;

•  whether there was injury to another person in any collision;

•  which Montana county or court your case is in;

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger / child in your car (especially a child under 16);

•  whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.


I am licensed to drive in a state other than Montana and I was cited for a DUI in Montana.  Will my driver license be suspended revoked?

Montana only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the State of Montana.  However, Montana and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Montana will report a DUI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend or revoke your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Montana licensed driver and you are convicted of a DUI charge in another state, Montana will suspend your license if it learns of the conviction.

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition.  In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device, the motor vehicle will not start.


Montana law authorizes the court to order installation of an ignition interlock device in your car if you are convicted of a DUI offense in the State of Montana. Talk to your Montana DUI lawyer about whether this requirement applies to your situation.

What will a Montana DUI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about your DUI one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Montana insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed. 

I'm not a United States citizen.  Will a Montana DUI conviction result in my removal from this country?

Probably not.  Typical, Montana DUI offense (no priors; no injury accident) are not considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies resulting in removal.  It is important to consult an experienced immigration lawyer about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced Montana criminal defense attorney about your pending Montana DUI charge. 

Keep two points in mind.  First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms.  Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any Montana DUI conviction.  Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked license.

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get an Montana DUI?


Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Montana DUI convictions and certain implied consent suspensions.  Learn more here.


What happens if I was on probation when I got arrested for my Montana DUI offense?

Committing a new offense while you're on probation for a previous crime creates two problems.  First, you face the new Montana DUI charge.  Second, you face a probation violation hearing for failing to obey all laws (a standard condition of probation).  The most serious scenario is when you receive a new Montana DUI when you're already on probation for a previous DUI conviction.  When this happens, its in your best interest to speak to a Montana DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

I missed my Montana court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things follow.  At a minimum, the Montana court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (known as a bench warrant).  Your drivers license may also be suspended.  Talk to an attorney as soon as possible.  Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my Montana DUI and / or other criminal charge(s)?

Yes.  You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including an Montana DUI charge.  Keep in mind that Montana DUI defense is a complex area of the law as shown by the information in this website.  If you cannot afford to hire your own attorney, you definitely should apply for court appointed counsel to represent you.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at the implied consent license proceeding.

Websites, including this one, provide general Montana DUI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Montana Drunk Driving - DUI - DWI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or Montana DUI charge that you have.  Montana attorneys are governed by the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  This site is not a solicitation clients; rather, it is purely informational.  2012


Montana DUI lawyers provide drunk driving (DUI) and criminal defense assistance to the communities of:  Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Great Falls, Kalispel, Yellowstone, Gallatin, Lewis & Clark, and Cascade Counties.  Montana attorneys may accept Visa, American Express, and MasterCard credit cards. 


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