Montana DUI Laws, Fines & Penalties

Blurred  traffic  at night   in downtown
••• lightofchairat/iStock/GettyImages

Related Articles

The state of Montana considers driving under the influence (DUI) to involve driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, according to Montana Code Annotated (MCA) Section 61-8-401. Penalties for a Montana DUI include imprisonment, a fine, driver’s license suspension, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), and participation in a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program. The punishment increases for individuals who drive with a BAC of 0.16 or above or had one or more passengers under the age of 16 in the motor vehicle at the time the DUI offense occurred.

First DUI Offense in Montana

Penalties for a first offense of drunk driving in Montana include 24 consecutive hours to six months of jail time, a fine between $600 and $1,000, completion of the Assessment, Course and Treatment (ACT) phases relating to substance abuse evaluation and education, six months' driver’s license suspension and six months' IID installation, according to the Montana Department of Justice, MCA Section 61-8-442 and MCA Section 61-8-714. If one or more passengers under the age of 16 were in the vehicle, the punishment increases to 48 consecutive hours to one year of jail time and a fine between $1,200 and $2,000. The minimum incarceration period must be served in jail and cannot be suspended. The remainder of the sentence can be suspended if the individual successfully completes court-ordered chemical dependency assessment, education or treatment.

If the evaluator for the ACT recommends substance abuse treatment, the offender is required to complete the treatment, which can range from outpatient to residential in-patient treatment. If the court orders treatment for a first-time offender, the offender may not also be required to attend a chemical dependency education course, according to MCA Section 61-8-732.

Second DUI Offense in Montana

Penalties for a second drunk driving offense include between seven days and one year of jail time, a fine between $1,200 and $2,000, the requirement to participate in the 24/7 Sobriety Program, one year of driver’s license suspension and one year of IID installation. If one or more passengers under 16 were in the vehicle, the punishment increases to between 14 days and one year of jail time and a fine between $2,400 and $4,000. Beyond the mandatory minimum jail time, the court may suspend the remainder of the imprisonment sentence pending the individual’s successful completion of a chemical dependency treatment program.

The 24/7 Sobriety Program provides that drivers can be ordered to undergo two breath tests a day or wear a bracelet that monitors alcohol in their system, according to MCA Section 44-4-1205. After the individual completes treatment, they must undergo monthly monitoring for at least one year from the date of admission to the program. If the individual does not comply with the monitoring program, the court will revoke the suspended sentence for incarceration.

The court may impose any portion of the suspended sentence and include additional monthly monitoring for up to an additional year. If the one year driver’s license suspension passes, and the individual has not completed a substance abuse education course, treatment or both in accordance with the law, the individual’s license will remain suspended until they complete the course, treatment or both.

Third DUI Offense in Montana

Penalties for a third offense include between 30 days and one year of incarceration, a fine between $2,500 and $5,000, the requirement to participate in the 24/7 Sobriety Program, one-year driver’s license suspension and one-year IID installation, according to the Montana Department of Justice. If one or more passengers under 16 were in the vehicle, the punishment increases to between 60 days and one year in jail and a fine between $5,000 and $10,000. Beyond the mandatory minimum jail time, the court may suspend the remainder of the incarceration sentence pending the individual’s successful completion of a chemical dependency treatment program.

Montana Drivers Under the Age of 21

A driver under 21 is not allowed to drive with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above, according to MCA Section 61-8-410. Penalties for the first time an individual commits an “underage DUI” include a fine between $100 and $500, completion of ACT phases relating to substance abuse and 90 days' driver’s license suspension. Penalties for a subsequent offense of underage DUI include up to 10 days of incarceration, if the individual is 18 or above, as well as a fine between $200 and $500, completion of the 24/7 Sobriety Program and six months' driver’s license suspension.

Penalties for a third underage DUI include between one day and 60 days incarceration if the individual is 18 or above, in addition to a fine between $300 and $500, completion of the 24/7 Sobriety Program and one-year driver’s license suspension. A conviction for an underage DUI cannot be counted as a prior conviction for a standard DUI. A driver under 21 with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above may be charged with a standard adult DUI.

DUI Courts in Montana

Montana has drug and DUI courts available to individuals with substance abuse issues, according to the Montana Judicial Branch. A DUI court offers incentives and sanctions that encourage participants to complete substance abuse treatment, according to MCA Section 61-5-231. An individual with a second or subsequent misdemeanor conviction for DUI who is participating in a DUI court is eligible to receive a probationary driver’s license.

If a participant in DUI court does not comply with the court’s conditions, the court can revoke the probationary driver’s license and impose a driver’s license suspension for the period appropriate for the individual’s offense. The suspension will start from the date of the court’s revocation for the probationary license. A driver with a DUI is not eligible to apply for a Montana restricted-use driving permit, according to MCA Section 61-5-232.

Severity of DUI Offense

Montana considers a first, second or third DUI offense to be a misdemeanor. In Montana, a misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by a term of imprisonment in the county jail or a fine, or both; or a fine and a term of imprisonment in a state prison for one year or less, according to MCA Section 45-2-101. Unlike other states, Montana does not group misdemeanors into different classes. Montana considers a fourth DUI offense to be a felony.

Montana's Look-back Period Is 10 Years

Montana’s look-back period to count prior DUIs for enhancement is 10 years, according to MCA Section 61-8-734. The 10-year rule is not applicable for an individual with three or more DUI convictions. For an individual with three or more DUI convictions, all prior DUIs are counted for sentencing purposes, according to MCA Sections 61-8-731 and 61-8-734.

Habitual Traffic Offenders in Montana

Montana considers habitual traffic offenders to be those who accumulate 30 or more conviction points within a three-year period, according to MCA Section 61-11-203. A single act of driving while under the influence of alcohol is worth 10 points. This means that any individual who has been convicted of three or more DUI charges in a three-year period will be considered a habitual traffic offender.

After the state declares a person to be a habitual traffic offender, it will revoke their driver’s license or driving privilege for three years from the date of the declaration, according to MCA Section 61-11-211.

Refusal to Submit to Alcohol Testing in Montana

The penalty for a first refusal to submit to alcohol testing includes six months' driver’s license suspension, with no provision for a restricted probationary license, according to MCA Section 61-8-402. The penalty for a second or subsequent refusal to submit to alcohol testing within five years of a previous refusal is one year driver’s license suspension, with no provision for a restricted probationary license. The term "alcohol" test can mean either a chemical test or a preliminary alcohol screening testing, according to the Montana Department of Justice.

Aggravated DUI in Montana

Montana defines an aggravated DUI as drunk driving with a BAC of 0.16 percent or above, according to MCA Section 61-8-465. Penalties for an aggravated DUI are higher than for a standard DUI. An individual can also be charged with an aggravated DUI if they have a new DUI but were already ordered to operate a vehicle with an IID, or had a suspended or revoked driver’s license due to a prior DUI conviction. An individual can be charged with an aggravated DUI if they refuse a blood or breath test during the current DUI investigation and have a suspended or revoked driver’s license as the result of a DUI conviction within 10 years.

Penalties for a first aggravated DUI include between two days and one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. The punishment increases to three days in jail and a fine of $2,000 if there were one or more passengers under 16 in the vehicle. Penalties for a second aggravated DUI include between 15 days and one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

The punishment increases to 45 days in jail and a fine of $5,000 if one or more passengers under the age of 16 were in the vehicle. Penalties for a third aggravated DUI include between 40 consecutive days and one year in jail and a fine of $5,000. The punishment increases to a minimum of 90 consecutive days in jail and a fine of $10,000 if one or more passengers under 16 were in the vehicle.

DUI Conviction Expungement Process

An individual can petition a district court for an order to expunge one or more misdemeanor offenses, under the state's conviction expungement process. In order to qualify for an expungement, the individual must not have been convicted of any other offense in Montana, another state or a federal court since they completed the terms of the original sentence for the offense. The individual also cannot be detained, charged or have charges pending for a new offense.

This means an individual with a DUI and a subsequent DUI within five years is not eligible to have the earlier DUI expunged. Further, an individual currently in DUI court is not eligible to have an earlier DUI expunged. The individual’s participation in DUI court counts as completing their sentence for their most recent DUI.

An individual may petition for expungement under MCA Section 46-18-1104 only once during their life. When an individual is requesting to expunge multiple misdemeanor offenses, the court may order expungement of all, some or none of the offenses, according to MCA Section 46-18-1110.