DUI Attorney in Billings, MT
In Billings, Montana, one of the most common criminal allegations that people with no criminal history will face is for driving under the influence (DUI). Drunk driving is a bad decision that otherwise good people make when they are least able to make a better one. Unfortunately, the penalties for this single and isolated bad choice are far more serious than what would seem to be appropriate. You could see your license suspended, accrue criminal fines, and will even have to spend time in jail under Montana’s strict DUI laws.
The Criminal Defense Firm’s group of DUI-defense lawyers has extensive experience combatting these allegations, including in Billings, Montana. Their strong advocacy and savvy legal defense strategies have helped numerous people in the area get their cases dismissed, win at trial, or reduce the penalties of a conviction.
Montana’s Newly-Revised and Extra Broad DUI Laws
Montana just finished revising its DUI laws, with lawmakers in Helena putting the finishing touches on them in 2021. However, this has meant that a lot of the information that you read about them online is outdated.
Fortunately, it is easy to spot the old information. Part of the recent changes was to move and renumber the DUI statutes. If you read about Montana’s DUI laws and see a citation for Montana Code Annotated § 61-8 and then a number in either the 400s or the 700s, it has not been updated to reflect the current version of the law.
It is important to avoid sources that discuss these old statutes because the information may not be correct anymore.
Montana’s state DUI laws are now found at Montana Code Annotated §§ 61-8-1001 et seq, most of which went into effect at the start of 2022.
There are a few things that most Montana residents should know about them.
The first is that there are two ways that you can be considered to be “under the influence” of alcohol in Montana:
- You are presumed to be under the influence if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the applicable legal limit, which is generally 0.08 percent, or
- The arresting police officer thinks that you are too impaired to drive.
This is important. Many people in Montana think that they have to blow a 0.08 or higher on a breathalyzer to be guilty of drunk driving. They are unaware that the testimony of the arresting officer can support a DUI conviction, even in the face of evidence that your BAC was actually under the legal limit. These are known as “low blow” cases, and prosecutors in Montana secure convictions on them all the time.
The second is that police do not need to see you driving your vehicle for you to face a DUI arrest and potentially get convicted. Montana’s new state law only requires you to be in “actual physical control” of your vehicle. In theory, this could mean just sitting in your vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Implied Consent Laws in Billings
To facilitate DUI enforcement, Montana also has an implied consent law, Montana Code Annotated § 61-8-1016. This law states that, by driving in Montana on public roadways, you give prior consent to take a breath or blood test to determine you BAC if a police officer requests one. Refusing to comply leads to an immediate yearlong suspension of your driving privileges.
Stiff Penalties for Drunk or Drugged Driving
There are two general types of penalties that you will face if you get convicted for DUI:
- Legal penalties, and
- Collateral consequences.
The legal penalties of a conviction are those imposed by the government. They include things like:
- A license suspension
- Criminal fines
- Jail time
- Other obligations, like performing community service or completing a course on drug or alcohol abuse
These legal penalties will depend on the specific facts surrounding your offense, as well as on your criminal history. DUIs are priorable offenses, so the penalties increase for every conviction you have on your record.
In Billings, Montana, the baseline legal penalties for a conviction are:
- 90-day license suspension
- 1 day to 6 months in jail
- Fines of between $600 and $1,000
- 6-month license suspension
- 7 days to 1 year in jail
- Fines of between $1,200 and $2,000
- 1-year license suspension
- 30 days to 1 year in jail
- Fines of between $2,500 and $5,000
Fourth or subsequent conviction:
- Minimum 1-year license suspension
- 13 months to 2 years in prison, plus a 5-year suspended sentence that you may serve for a subsequent conviction
- Fines of between $5,000 and $10,000
Note that there is always a mandatory minimum jail sentence in Montana for a DUI conviction, even if it was just your first.
While steep already, these penalties can increase even further if there are aggravating factors or if additional criminal charges are filed against you. This can happen if:
- Your BAC was 0.16 or higher, which makes the offense an aggravated DUI
- You caused a fatal accident, which will lead to a charge of vehicular manslaughter
- There was a child in your vehicle when you were pulled over
- An open container of alcohol was found in your vehicle
- Illegal drugs were found during a search of your vehicle, which can lead to charges for drug trafficking or drug possession
Additionally, there are collateral consequences of a conviction. These are imposed by society rather than by the government, so they are much harder to predict. Some common collateral consequences that come from a DUI conviction in Billings are:
- Losing your job because you cannot get to work now that your license has been suspended
- Becoming ineligible for professional opportunities that are only open to people with a clean criminal history
- Social stigmatization
- Losing a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or becoming ineligible to get one
- Becoming ineligible to work a side hustle as a gig driver, like with a ridesharing company like Lyft or Uber
These make the legal penalties of a conviction even worse.
The DUI-Defense Lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm Raise Strong Arguments Against DUI Cases in Billings
Given the steep penalties of a conviction for a DUI in Billings, Montana, it is even more important than ever to hire an effective DUI-defense lawyer. The defense team at The Criminal Defense Firm has represented numerous defendants facing DUI allegations. Our attorneys have raised strong legal defenses against DUI allegations, such as:
- The arresting officer botched the field sobriety tests
- The breathalyzers used were not calibrated correctly
- The arresting officer’s testimony is not reliable
- There was no probable cause for the traffic stop
These are just a few of the potential legal defenses that could secure an acquittal at trial or persuade the district attorney prosecuting your case to drop the charges against you.
Additionally, in difficult cases, the lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm have been able to help DUI defendants get favorable outcomes when a complete victory was not possible. We have negotiated with prosecutors in Billings, Montana, for plea deals that protect our clients’ interests and future, and have argued for, and succeeded, in getting some drastically reduced sentences.
Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Law in Billings, Montana
What is the Administrative Process for Suspending My License?
DUI cases are confusing in that they proceed in two different ways: There is the criminal case, which goes through court and carries jail time and fines and a license suspension, and there is the administrative case, which goes through the Montana Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) and only deals with your driving privileges.
If you do not speak up and invoke your rights during the administrative process, your license suspension will go into effect mere days after your arrest. This setback may be avoided by getting legal representation immediately after your DUI arrest.
Can a Cop Pull Me Over for No Reason?
No. A traffic stop is a type of seizure. The Fourth Amendment forbids seizures that are unreasonable. One way for the seizure to be a reasonable one is if the officer conducting it has probable cause to believe that a legal violation has occurred. This can be any legal violation – even a small one. However, there does have to be one. If there was not, then the traffic stop would have violated your civil rights. This can lead to the exclusion of any evidence that was found during the traffic stop, which is often enough to destroy the case against you.
Why Should I Hire The Criminal Defense Firm?
The Criminal Defense Firm is one of the only law firms in Montana that exclusively employs senior-level attorneys who have decades defending criminal cases. Many of our team of lawyers also have decades prosecuting federal cases with some of the largest law enforcement agencies in the world, adding to their depth of understanding of the American criminal justice system.
When you hire The Criminal Defense Firm to fight your DUI, you get seasoned attorneys on your side and the assurance that all of the legal work on your case is being done by them – not by paralegals or junior associates.
Why Doesn't The Criminal Defense Firm Call Itself the Best DUI-Defense Law Firm in Billings?
Because we know that it would mean more if it came from our prior clients. Many of them have left testimonials about our firm regarding their success stories in court.
Contact Your Billings DUI Defense Team Today
Contact us online or call The Criminal Defense Firm at (866) 603-4540 for legal help in Billings, Montana.