Can I Get a DUI in a Parking Lot in Montana?

Yes, in Montana you can get a DUI in a parking lot. Montana law prohibits operating a motor vehicle on ways of this state open to the public. A way of the state open to the public is defined by Montana statute as “any highway, road, alley, lane, parking area, or other public or private place adapted and fitted for public travel that is in common use by the public.” Our courts have interpreted this to include parking lots with a history of private use.

Although private parking lots are not specifically listed in the law, the Montana Supreme Court has found numerous times that they qualify. In City of Billings v. Peete, the Court held that the parking garage had a history of use by the public, and that the public was encouraged to use the facility. Because the parking garage was fitted for public travel and in common use by the public, Peete’s DUI arrest in the garage was valid.

An even stronger statement came in Santee v. State Deptartment of Justice, Motor Vehicle Division, where the Court found that limited access and warning signs did not change the public nature of a bank’s parking lot. Testimony at trial had shown that customers of other establishments also used the bank lot, meaning that it had a history of public use and was a way of the state open to the public.

So the bad news is that yes, you can get a DUI in a parking lot in Montana. The longer answer is that you need to look at the historical use of the lot to see whether there is common public usage.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Kalispell, Bigfork, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, or Polson you should consult a DUI attorney immediately to protect your rights. I offer free initial consultations and flat fees. Call today to schedule a meeting: 752-6373.