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.

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