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How much do you have to drink (BAC*) for a DUI in Montana?

Under 21                                                        .00% Montana is a zero tolerance state
21 or older                                                     .08%
Commercial                                                   .04%

BAC = Blood Alcohol Content

What if you refuse to take a chemical test in Montana?
Montana has an implied consent law. That means that if you refuse to submit to a chemical test you will be subject to a fine and automatic license suspension. Learn more about Montana’s implied consent law. 

Refusal to take test:  
1st Offense: 6 month license suspension
2d Offense: 1 year license suspension
3rd Offense: 1 year license suspension

What is the minimum jail time? 
Minimum Jail
1st Offense:1 day jail
2d Offense: 5 days jail
3rd Offense: 10 days jail

Lookback Period: The period of time that prior DUI's are relevant for sentencing. Sometimes referred to as "washout" period.

An offender is considered to have been previously convicted for the purposes of sentencing if less than 10 years have elapsed between the commission of the present offense and a previous conviction unless the offense is the offender's third or subsequent offense, in which case all previous convictions must be used for sentencing purposes. (MCA 61-8-734 - updated Fall 2015)

Can you plead to a lesser offense than DUI in Montana?

A defendant might receive a conviction of negligent endangerment or reckless driving involving alcohol, as a result of a plea bargain in which a charge of drunk driving is reduced. There is no statutory provision on whether a plea bargain will be accepted in Montana, but it's possible a lawyer may be able to create a plea bargain for you.

1st Montana DUI Offense First Drunk Driving Conviction
Jail – 24 Hours to 6 Months;
Jail – 48 Hours to 12 Months (Passenger under 16 in Vehicle).
Fine - $300-$1,000;
Fine - $600-$2,000 (Passenger under 16 in Vehicle),
License Suspension – 6 Months
Ignition Interlock Device / Probationary License Possible Complete Chemical Dependency Education Course or Treatment

First offense DUI in Montana:

First DUI in Montana carries the prospect of both criminal and administrative penalties for defendants. The penalties noted below do not address those applicable to commercial driver’s license holders, juvenile offenders, or underage drinkers in violation of zero tolerance laws. Likewise, the state of Montana employs implied consent laws, with refusals to submit resulting in an automatic license suspension of six (6) months.
Administrative Penalties
First offense DUI in Montana results in an administrative license suspension of six (6) monthsOn a case-specific basis, ignition interlocks may be required for first offenders wishing to reinstate their license in Montana, and in addition, offenders may be able to obtain a probationary license during the suspension period, likely incurring the conditional use of an ignition interlock deviceCompletion of an alcohol/substance use dependency assessment and education course required for all suspension reinstatements as well, often a feature of the criminal penalties in any case
Criminal Penalties
First offense DUI in Montana results in mandatory minimum periods of incarceration of one (1) day with potential of up to six (6) months. If offender arrested with minor (person under age of 16) present in vehicle, mandatory incarceration of two (2) days with potential of up to one (1) yearFines range from minimum of $300 to maximum of $1000, which are doubled if minor is present in vehicle at time of arrest. These fine amounts do not include costs incurred during completion of sentence, such as probation visits and assessments, or costs involved in reinstatement of licenseConvictions of first offense DUI in Montana are counted against future arrests and charges for DUI for a period of five (5) years

Second offense DUI in Montana:

The penalties for a second DUI in Montana are set forth in Section 61-8-401 and subsequent sections of the state’s statutory code. This section establishes the criminal and other penalties for second DUI offenses, and states that a prior offense is any DUI occurring in any state within the past five years.
Look Back Period
In Montana, a court can legally consider any DUI occurring ten years before the currently pending DUI in its punishment of the offender. This means that if a DUI offender has committed a previous DUI inside or outside of Montana within the past ten years, he or she will be considered a second time offender and punished accordingly.
Felony vs. Misdemeanor in Montana Statutes
Like other states, a misdemeanor in Montana is any crime punishable to no more than a year in prison. A felony is any crime punishable by at least a year in prison. A second offense DUI is a misdemeanor in Montana, because it is punishable by six months in jail, or twelve months if a passenger in the car is 16 years old or younger.
Criminal Penalties
A Montana court can sentence a second DUI offender to a minimum of seven days and a maximum of six months in prison. However, this sentence can be suspended if the offender attends alcohol treatment. Additionally, it can fine the offender between $600-1,000. If a passenger is 16 years old or younger, the court can punish the offender to no less than 14 days and no more than 12 months in prison and fine them between $1,200-2,000.
Additionally, the court can order that an ignition interlock device be placed on the offender’s vehicle, to prevent them while driving intoxicated, and even order that their car be seized for as long as a year.
Pleading in a Montana Court
A second time DUI offender in Montana can plead guilty and accept the court’s punishment, not guilty and proceed to trial or enter into a plea bargain with the state’s prosecutor. In a trial, a jury decides the offender’s punishment if they determine that he committed the crime. Although he can appeal the jury’s penalty, there is very little that can be done about their decision. In a plea bargain the prosecutor and offender agree about the offender’s punishment. The offender either pleads guilty or “no contest” which is a way of agreeing to be punished without having to plead guilty. These agreements often have lesser criminal penalties.
Administrative Penalties
An administrative penalty is one imposed by an entity other than a criminal court. In a Montana DUI case, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) imposes these punishments. The Montana DMV has the authority to revoke a second time DUI offender’s driver’s license for as long as a year.

Third offense DUI in Montana:

Though a misdemeanor, a third offense DUI in Montana carries serious administrative and criminal penalties reflecting progressive legal punishment with each DUI conviction.  Administrative penalties include fines plus court costs, license suspension and vehicle seizure. Criminal penalties include a minimum jail time.
The Law in Montana
In Montana, a .08 percent Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is the legal limit. If you test at this number or over you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). You will be asked to take a preliminary alcohol screening test to determine your blood alcohol content.  You can refuse to take the screening test, but that will lead to an automatic DUI charge.

Each DUI conviction carries increasingly more severe penalties with the first 3 convictions leading to jail time, fines and license suspension. The third offense DUI also includes possible vehicle seizure. Unlike many other states, Montana considers the first 3 DUI convictions to be misdemeanors, and it is the fourth conviction that is a felony.
Montana Administrative and Criminal Penalties
A third DUI offense in Montana carries the following administrative penalties:
Interlock device

  • $1,000 to $5,000 fine if all vehicle passengers are over 16 years old
  • $2,000 to $10,000 if any vehicle passenger is under 16 years old
  • Interlock device
  • Driver’s license suspended for 1 year
  • Vehicle seizure

The driver’s license suspension can be reduced to 45 days and vehicle seizure avoided if the person meets 2 requirements.

  • Pays for leasing, installation and maintenance of an Ignition Interlock Device
  • Completes a chemical dependency treatment program

The criminal penalties include the following:

  • Minimum jail time of 30 days if all passengers are over 16 years old
  • Minimum jail time of 60 days if any passenger under 16 years old
  • Sentence of up to 1 year in jail

All but 10 days of the jail sentence may be suspended if the person completes the chemical dependency treatment program.

Plea Options and Lookback Period
As a defendant after arrest, you will enter a plea at an arraignment. You have the choice of pleading guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere. Nolo contendere is the legal term for what is commonly called a “no contest” plea. In a no contest plea you are not saying if you agree or disagree with the charges.

The state of Montana has a look back period of 10 years. This means that any DUI conviction in the last 10 years will be considered when determining the level of offense.