Flathead DUI

If you’ve been charged with DUI or DUI per se in Flathead County, your actual charges could be in a number of different courts depending on a few different factors. First off, it’s important to know whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Your first, second, and third DUIs are misdemeanors. This means that the maximum possible term of imprisonment is 6 months in the county jail. A fourth or subsequent DUI is a felony and punishable by imprisonment in the state prison. If you’ve been charged with felony DUI, the case will be handled by Flathead County District Court which is located at:

920 South Main, 3rd Floor
Kalispell, MT 59901

If you are charged with a felony DUI, your first Court appearance will actually be in Justice Court. This does not mean that Justice Court will preside over your entire case, only that hearing takes place there.

If you’re charged with misdemeanor DUI, your charges could take place in either the county court or in a city court, depending on where you were arrested. If you were arrested within Kalispell City limits by the Kalispell Police Department, then your charges will be in Kalispell Municipal Court presided over by the Honorable Lori Adams. Kalispell Municipal Court is located at:

312 1st Ave East
Kalispell, Mt 59901

All of the city courts can hear any misdemeanor DUI offense, so unless the charge is a felony a case that starts in city court will likely stay in city court. Whitefish also has a municipal court, and if you’re arrested for driving under the influence within Whitefish city limits, you’re case will be presided over by the Honorable Bradley Johnson at Whitefish Municipal Court, located at:

275 Flathead Ave
Whitefish, MT 59937

And finally, Columbia Falls also has a city court which is presided over by the Honorable Susan “Tina” Gordon. Columbia Falls City Court is located at:

Columbia Falls City Hall
130 6th Street West
Columbia Falls, MT 59912.

Again, if you’re arrested within city limits for Kalispell, Whitefish, or Columbia Falls, your DUI charges will be in the city (or municipal) court for that jurisdiction. However, a great deal of Flathead County contains unincorporated areas. So, if you’re in Bigfork, Somers, or anywhere outside the three major cities and arrested for DUI – your case will be handled by the Flathead Justice Court. Flathead County Justice Court is presided over by the Honorable Mark R. Sullivan and the Honorable Daniel R. Wilson. It is located at:

920 South Main, 2nd Floor
Kalispell, MT 59901

Flathead County Justice Court is in the same building as Flathead County District Court, which can lead to some confusion. But, they are entirely separate courts and handle different cases. Technically, Justice Court has jurisdiction over any misdemeanor DUI that occurs in Flathead County. Practically, only those that occur outside the city limits for Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls are actually prosecuted there.

Helena Man Found Guilty of 12th DUI

A jury found a 53-year-old Helena man guilty of his 12th driving under the influence offense on Wednesday evening.

After two days of testimony, the 12 members of the jury took about three hours of deliberation.

Charles R. Horton is set to be sentenced for felony DUI on July 28.

Horton, 53, was accused of driving a vehicle into a snow bank while intoxicated in November 2010.

Horton faces a sentence of 13 months to the Montana Department of Corrections followed by up to a five-year suspended sentence.



State v. Baze | MT Supreme Court DUI Case

State v. Baze is a Montana Supreme Court decision on a DUI case and stands for the proposition that a faxed toxicology report containing blood test results was hearsay testimony and could not be admitted under the business records exception found in the Montana Rule of Evidence 803(6).

Recently, I wrote about hearsay evidence in DUI cases in Montana. A brief recap: hearsay is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. It is a very broad category covering most things not said in trial. There are many exceptions to hearsay, one being the business records exception at issue in Baze.

At Mr. Baze’s Montana DUI Trial, the State wanted to introduce the results from a blood test performed on Baze on the night in question. But the only copy they had at trial was a fax of the document. The parties agreed that the document was hearsay – it was an out of court statement offered to prove that Baze’s blood alcohol content was higher than the legal limit. They disagreed on whether the report was admissible anyway under the “business records” exception to the hearsay rule.

The Court ruled that the document did not qualify under the business records exception because the rule requires that the entity which created the business record (the toxicology report in this case) must establish that the record was prepared in accordance with its regular and trustworthy business practices. Because no testimony was offered at Mr. Baz’s trial by personnel from the Billings Clinic where the record was generated, it was not admissible.

A good DUI attorney in Montana knows that keeping evidence out is as important as the evidence you get in. Mr. Baze’s attorneys certainly remembered this. If you have questions about what is hearsay in DUI case or questions about your DUI case, please call me today at 406-752-6373 to schedule your free consultation. We can meet in person or simply talk over the phone. Either way its free, so what have you got to lose?

Hearsay in a Montana DUI Trial

Evidence is a funny thing. On the one hand, we want the jury to be able to consider as much information as possible in order to reach the correct conclusion. But after a lot of trial and error, we have discovered that some types of information are more trouble than they are worth. For example, allowing one person to testify about what a second person said could be a problem. Doing it when the second person isn’t going to testify is a serious problem. For that reason, the Montana rules of evidence prohibit Hearsay testimony unless it fits under certain exceptions.

Montana Rule of Evidence 801(c) defines hearsay as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” In Montana this could be an oral or written assertion or the nonverbal conduct of a person. Hearsay is not admissible, unless otherwise allowed in the law. Because the definition of hearsay is relatively simple, legal arguments involving hearsay have more to do with the exceptions.

Montana Rule of Evidence 803 contains 24 exceptions and rule 804 contains 5 exceptions. And really, these are better thought of as categories of exceptions instead of individual ones – which means there are a lot of times when something that otherwise qualifies as hearsay evidence is admitted in a Montana DUI trial.

As I’ve discussed before, a good Montana DUI attorney keeps as much evidence out as he introduces. A strong knowledge of the Montana Rules of Evidence is essential to accomplish this – and familiarity with hearsay is vital.

If you have questions about a Montana DUI, or what evidence from the investigation could actually be used against you in Court, please call me today to schedule a free meeting. You can reach me at 752-6373 to schedule your free phone or in person consultation.

What to do After a DUI Arrest in Montana

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Montana, here is a list of things that you should do:

If your license was revoked because you refused a test, you should file a Petition for Return of Driver’s License.  In Montana you have 30 days to request the hearing in District Court for the County where you have been charged.

Don’t make assumptions. Just because you were registered at having a BAC over 0.08 doesn’t mean you’ve lost your case.  Let your Montana DUI attorney investigate to make sure that the reading was accurate.

Write everything down you can remember about the incident.

Gather witnesses who can testify about that night. Especially if they can help pin down how much you had to drink and that you were sober.

Do not fail to appear in Court. When you were released, you were given a Court date. Don’t miss it.

Call an attorney. Find one (like myself) who offers a free consultation. At the very least, pick their brain and learn everything you can for an hour. Even if you don’t decide to hire him, you’ll leave the appointment knowing more than you did before.

Failing to become educated and understanding the dangers of a DUI is probably the most important thing to think about.  Most people don’t understand the implications of their DUI arrest.

If you have been charged with DUI in Montana, call me today at 406-752-6373 to schedule a free appointment. Learn everything you can, because I can assure you the Prosecutor has done this before.

Penalty for First DUI Offense in Montana

For the first conviction of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI) in Montana, you may be sentenced to not less than 24 hours or more than 6 months in jail. The fine will be between $300 and $1,000 (unless one or more passengers under the age of 16 years old were in the vehicle at the time of the offense). Currently, when convicted for DUI you must serve 24 hours. But, like everything else in the law, there is an exception. So long as you complete court-ordered chemical dependency assessment, education, or treatment – the 24 hour sentence may be suspended by the Court (although it does not have to be).

The top end of these ranges may seem a bit extreme for a first time DUI offense, and that’s because they are. The wide range gives judges some options when considering the variety of offenders they see. So for particularly egregious defendants, the judges have an option to be more aggressive than ordinarily is warranted. Judicial discretion can be both a blessing and a curse for DUI offenders.

An important thing to remember is that this does not mean your first Montana DUI. It means your first DUI. If Montana finds a record of a DUI conviction in another jurisdiction (essentially meaning another state) it will count toward how you are charged. Under Montana law, a conviction in Washington for DUI is the same as a conviction in Montana. You may have heard stories from friends who this didn’t apply to – but they are the exception. Especially post-9/11 law enforcement databases are more accessible and more open. If you have a DUI from another state, count on it applying toward your total in Montana.

To re-cap – on your first DUI you can expect:

  • To spend between 24 hours and 6 months in jail;
  • A fine of between $300 and $1,000; and
  • For prosecutors to look in other states for past DUI convictions.