Ignition Interlock Devices and Montana DUI

According to Wikipedia, an Ignition Interlock Device is:

a mechanism, like a breathalyzer, installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard. Before the vehicle’s motor can be started, the driver first must exhale into the device; if the resultant breath-alcohol concentration analyzed result is greater than the programmed blood alcohol concentration, the device prevents the engine from being started.

Ignition Interlock Montana DUI

Once the vehicle has started, the device is going to randomly require additional samples to prevent someone other than the driver from blowing into the machine. If the driver fails to provide a sample, or the sample shows an impermissible alcohol concentration, the machine will log the event and then set off an alarm until the vehicle is turned off or a clean breath sample is provided.

Under Montana law, an IID can be required because of different situations. The newly created sentencing statute for Aggravated DUI specifically contemplates use of the machine as a part of a suspended sentence. But don’t think that these are only limited to aggravated charges.

Under Section 61-8-442, an IID may be required on a conviction for DUI

or DUI per se. In the case of a person’s first conviction it is left to the Court’s discretion to decide whether or not to require the interlock device. In my experience, it is rarely required for first time offenders not charged with Aggravated DUI. However, because extreme situations exist this is left to the judge’s discretion. However, when facing a second or subsequent conviction for DUI, the court must either require the IID for any period of a probationary license, require the person to participate in the 24/7 program, or order that each vehicle owned by the person be seized and forfeited.

Interlock devices are inconvenient, but better than not being allowed to drive. For most of my clients, the more pressing concern is the cost and the invasive nature of the device.

Aggravated DUI

In 2011, Montana expanded its DUI laws by adding a new entry to the list: Aggravated DUI. Defined at Section 61-8-722, MCA, the offense of Aggravated DUI piggybacks on the other DUI offenses and provides for enhanced penalties when certain factors are present. Under the law, a person commits the offense of aggravated driving under the influence if the person is in violation of 61-8-401 (DUI), 61-8-406 (DUI per se), or 61-8-411 (DUI marijuana) and at the time of the offense:

(a) The person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.16 or more;

(b) The person is under the order of a court or the department to equip any motor vehicle the person operates with an approved ignition interlock device;

(c) The person’s driver’s license or privilege to drive is suspended, cancelled, or revoked as a result of a prior violation of 61-8-401, 61-8-402, 61-8-406, or 61-8-411;

(d) The person refuses to provide a breath or blood sample as required in 61-8-402 and the person’s driver’s license or privilege to drive was suspended, cancelled, or revoked under 61-8-402 within 10 years of the commission of the present offense; or

(e) The person has one prior conviction or pending charge for the violation of 45-5-106, 45-5-205, 61-8-401, 61-8-406, 61-8-411.

So, if you’re convicted of DUI and one of the factors listed above as (a)-(e) exist, you can be sentenced for Aggravated DUI. A person convicted of the offense of aggravated driving under the influence shall be punished by:

(a) a fine of $1,000; and

(b) a term of imprisonment of not more than 1 year, part of which may be suspended, except for the mandatory minimum sentences set forth in 61-8-714

If a suspended sentence is imposed, the sentencing court may order additional restrictions, such as:

(a) the person is subject to all conditions of the suspended sentence imposed by the court, including mandatory participation in drug or DUI courts if available;

(b) the person is subject to all conditions of the 24/7 sobriety and drug monitoring program if available and if imposed by the court; and

(c) if the person violates any condition of the suspended sentence or any treatment required, the court may impose the remainder of any imprisonment term that was imposed and suspended.

Practically, what does this mean? If a person is convicted of DUI per se and the state proves that his blood alcohol level was 0.16 or higher at the time, he can be punished under the Aggravated DUI statutes. Ordinarily for DUI per se, the maximum sentence would be six months. But because aggravated DUI applies, the maximum sentence doubles to one year. So, the offender can be given a one year sentence with some portion of it suspended. The mandatory minimum would be 24 hours, so if the court suspends all but 24 hours that would leave a suspended sentence of 364 days. In addition to any other conditions imposed on the suspended sentence, the Aggravated DUI statute specifically allows the court to require that the person be subject to the 24/7 program for that year. This will require invasive and expensive alcohol monitoring for the duration of the suspended sentence.

The big takeaway here is that conviction for Aggravated DUI is a much more serious offense. DUIs should never be taken lightly, but this is another level beyond that. You risk being under court supervision for a year and being subject to alcohol monitoring (at your expense) for that entire time. If you’ve been charged with Aggravated DUI (or think you qualify under the factors listed above) I’d encourage you to immediately discuss the situation with a Montana DUI lawyer who can evaluate your specific circumstances and give you the right advice.

If you’d like to talk to me about your case, please call (406) 752-6373.