DUI Convictions From Other States

Usually, when people talk about a criminal record – they think of it as a singular thing. In reality, it is a conglomeration of many different databases and exists in many different versions. For people accused of a DUI in Montana, prosecutors will usually run searches on several different databases to determine whether there are prior DUI/DWI convictions in other states (it’s much simpler to determine whether you have been previously convicted of DUI in Montana).

Sometimes, these different searches produce different results. Which raises the question: when one record shows 2 prior convictions, and another shows 3 – how many should we count in determining your offense level? The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that once a prosecutor finds some evidence of a prior conviction, that conviction can be used unless the defendant proves that it should not be. It creates what is called a rebuttable presumption. A┬áprior conviction is presumed to be valid absent evidence to the contrary. The defendant may overcome the presumption with direct evidence of irregularity. Once a defendant produces such direct evidence, the burden then shifts to the State.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you have prior DUIs, don’t count on them not being included in any charges here in Montana. My clients frequently tell me stories about friends who have accumulated many DUIs in other jurisdictions, but when charged here in Montana are only accused of one. Oddly, when the charges come down for my client – the prosecutor has found the prior conviction he was sure would just go away. Most importantly, be honest with your lawyer. The only way I can deal with problems in your case is if I know about them. Keeping a secret because you think the prosecutors won’t find out about it is a sucker’s bet. Keep me in the loop, we will all be happier that way.

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