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.

DUI License Suspension in Montana

Conviction for DUI in Montana has a number of ancillary consequences that most people aren’t aware of. One of the most significant is the automatic suspension of a driver’s license. Under section 61-5-208(2)(b)(i) of the Montana Code Annotated, a person convicted of a first offense of DUI or DUI per se shall have his or her license suspended for a period of six months. A person convicted for the second time within five years will have his or her license suspended for one year, and can not be granted a probationary license until 45 days of the 1 year suspension have passed. Also, the judge must recommend that the offender be issued a probationary license (however, it will be necessary that an ignition interlock device be installed in their vehicle).

A third or subsequent conviction of DUI within a five year period means a one year suspension of driver’s license, and a probationary license may only be issued after the offender has completed 90 days of the year long suspension. This also includes a requirement for the ignition interlock device.
Reinstatement of the license includes paying a $200 fine to the Motor Vehicle Division of the Montana Department of Justice. This applies whether or not a probationary license was issued. Many people convicted of a DUI forget this step, and end up accumulating Driving While Suspended charges later on, after assuming that their license was reinstated at the end of the suspension. If you’ve been convicted of DUI and aren’t sure whether you paid the reinstatement fee, a call to the Motor Vehicle Division might be a good idea.

A probationary license can fall under four different categories: Occupational Driving Only; Home to School and Return; Essential Driving only; or Daytime Hours Only.

Licenses restricted to “occupational driving only” may only be used by the licensee to travel to and from the regular place of employment, or in search of employment, by the most direct route from the residence in a period of time no greater than is reasonable under existing traffic conditions; and during work hours at the specific direction of the employer for purposes of carrying out assigned job related functions.
Licenses restricted to “home to school and return” may only be used by the licensee to travel between the residence and the school or educational institution in which the licensee is enrolled. Travel is only authorized immediately before and after regular school hours and must be by the most direct route between the residence and the school in a period of time no greater than is reasonable under existing traffic conditions. Driving to or from extracurricular activities is not allowed.

Licenses restricted to “essential driving only” may only be used by the licensee for occupational driving as described above; home to school driving as described above; and travel to and from the regular residence in a period of time no greater than is reasonable under existing traffic conditions for purposes related to maintenance of the household.
Licenses restricted to “daytime hours only” may only be used by the licensee to operate a motor vehicle from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

While these four options are described in the Administrative Rules of Montana, the rules also allow the Division to impose additional restrictions when appropriate. However, none of these restrictions can prohibit a driver from travelling to or from required alcohol treatment programs.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you are facing license suspension. While Montana is beautiful, it’s also spread out. Getting along with the ability to drive is a real hardship, and something you should consider when charged with an alcohol related driving offense. The best advice I can give you is to talk to an attorney about the possible outcomes, and see what options are available to mitigate these potential problems.

Montana DUI: License Suspension

Montana law provides for immediate and automatic suspension and revocation of a driver’s license if you refuse to comply with a valid request for a Alcohol Content (AC) Test. This could be either a Portable Breath Test (PBT) at the scene, or a more technical and accurate test at the station, or a blood test later. If you refuse to comply with any of these tests your license will automatically be taken away. If it is your first refusal, you will lose your license for 6 months. A subsequent refusal (within 5 years of the past refusal) results in losing your license for one year. You’ll be given a temporary license for 5 days.

My advice is to use those 5 days to find a good DUI Lawyer. In Montana, the suspension/revocation under the implied consent law can be appealed to District Court with the hope of reinstating your license. This MUST be done within 30 days of losing your license. Do not wait. Go immediately to discuss your options with a lawyer, because it will take some time for your DUI attorney to get things in order before the proper documents can be filed. I offer a free consultation for DUI matters, so there’s really nothing to lose by picking up the phone and scheduling a consultation.

There are four issues on appeal in a case like this: 1) whether the officer had “reasonable grounds” to believe that you were driving under the influence; 2) whether you were under the age of 21 and placed under arrest for DUI; 3) whether the officer had “probable cause” to believe that you were driving under the influence and part of an accident resulting in property damage, personal injury, or death; and 4) whether you actually refused to submit to the test.

One thing to remember is that the officer MUST inform you of the consequences of a refusal to comply with the test. Most Montana police departments that I am aware of now have a standard form that you sign when you refuse to participate in the test. It lays out the consequences of a refusal. ALWAYS read something carefully before signing it. You never want to be in front of a judge claiming you signed something without understanding it or reading it. This applies throughout your life, and especially if you have been stopped for suspicion of DUI (or any crime).

Finally, remember that once you refuse the test – you can not take it back. Under Johnson v. Motor Vehicles Division and Hunter v. State the Montana Supreme Court has clearly said that a subsequent attempt to withdraw a refusal is no fix. Always, always, always think before you act.

If you’ve been charged with DUI and had your license revoked for refusal to give an Alcohol Content Test, call me today to discuss your options. You can reach my office at 406-752-6373 and schedule a free consultation.

Appealing DUI License Suspension

Under Montana DUI law, if you refuse to submit to an alcohol concentration test, your license is automatically suspended. A defendant whose license is suspended or revoked, may appeal to the district court in the county where the alleged DUI occurred. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the revocation.

At the hearing for the appeal, the district court considers a number of issues:

1) did the peace officer have “reasonable grounds” to believe the Defendant was Driving Under the Influence;

2) was the person under the age of 21 and placed under arrest for a violation of 61-8-410;

3) did the officer have probable cause to believe the person was Driving Under the Influence and involved in an accident resulting in property damage, personal injury, or death; and

4) did the defendant refuse to submit to a test designated by the officer.

At the time of the request for the test, the officer must carefully inform the defendant of the consequences of a refusal. A person’s first refusal will result in a suspension of six months. A second or subsequent refusal within five years of the previous refusal will result in a revocation of one year.

If your license is suspended for an implied consent refusal, you may not obtain a restricted or probationary license.

In your license has been suspended in the Kalispell or Flathead area, contact me today for a free case review. And remember, you only have 30 days to appeal the suspension.