Montana Public Defenders in DUI Cases

A fundamental tenant of our criminal justice system is that persons accused of a crime are entitled to representation in court by an attorney. For certain crimes, if the accused cannot afford an attorney, Montana will provide one; a public defender. So when does someone accused of DUI qualify for a public defender? When the person is indigent, as defined by Montana law.

In order to qualify as indigent, Montana statute 47-1-111 says that a person’s gross household income must be at or below 133% the federal poverty standard.This number is based on household size. For 2010, 133% of the poverty level for a house of 1 is $14,403.90. If you make that much a year, or less, you would qualify for a public defender in Montana. For a household of 2, it is $19,378.10. The government provides a table of these figures at:

https://www.cms.gov/MedicaidEligibility/downloads/POV10Combo.pdf

Montana courts make an initial determination of whether to appoint the a public defender in DUI cases. Interestingly, upon the courts referral to the public defender, they must take the case. The order for a public defender in a DUI case can be rescinded later, but until that time the person is entitled to the full benefic of public defender services.

Montana public defenders provide an invaluable service for people accused of drunk driving. It is vital that DUI defendants in Montana have professional legal representation in order to protect their rights and freedom.

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