Montana Law Requires Daily Sobriety Tests for DUI Offenders

By Mike

Montana is known for its beautiful scenery, wide open spaces, and strong advocacy of personal liberties. Most notably, the state is famous for having the largest per capita gun ownership rates in the United States.

However, despite this affinity for personal liberties, Montana recently passed a new DUI law that some observers are calling too strict.

According to the Billings (Mont.) Gazette, the new law requires DUI offenders to perform breath tests two times a day as they await trial for their drunk driving arrests.

The program, which is only active in Yellowstone County but will likely spread to other counties soon, is intended not only to keep alleged drunk drivers sober before their trial, but to deter potential drivers from getting behind the wheel drunk in the first place.

The article in the Billings Gazette focused on Toni Allison, who was recently arrested for a DUI. After she posted bond, she was able to leave jail, but she has to return two times each day to do a breathalyzer test.

If Allison fails one of these tests, under the terms of the new law, she will be arrested immediately and may face new criminal charges, as well as forfeiture of her bond.

The law, which is named the “24/7 Sobriety Program,” is patterned after a similar regulation passed in South Dakota. It gives Montana judges the discretion to order the daily BAC tests for DUI repeat offenders.

Defendants who are forced to take the daily tests are required to pay two dollars for each test. If they miss a scheduled test, prosecutors are free to issue a warrant for their arrest.

Officials recently tested the new program in Lewis and Clark County, and reported a 99 percent success rate. Other counties are considering adopting an electronic monitoring program, rather than the test-on-site method practiced in Yellowstone County.

While critics of the program claim it is needlessly invasive, legislators in Montana believe that the new law will deter drivers from driving drunk, and that the law is necessary to curtail a practice that is perceived as a major problem on the open roads of Montana.

Montana used to be known for its relaxed driving laws. It was one of the final U.S. states to implement a speed limit, and it used to wear its lack of speed limits as a badge of pride.

Now, however, Montana is following a national trend of cracking down on unsafe drivers, as more than 10,000 people still die in the United States each year as a result of drunk driving accidents.

So, while the new law may be a nuisance to people who are arrested for multiple DUIs, it may be a helpful tool in the fight against drunk driving. At the very least, it will ensure a temporary period of sobriety alleged DUI offenders.



DUI is a part of the culture for many in Montana

By admin

In the state of Montana, some believe that a culture of drunk driving and DUI arrests has become so ingrained in the community that only a community-wide change can lead to a decrease in DUI arrests and accidents.

In a recent DUI court case, a surprising number of those involved in the case had been affected by drunk driving, bringing to light the pervasiveness of DUI in Montana’s culture, even at the highest levels.

Greg Barkus, the defendant in a DUI case in Flathead County, Montana, was accused of operating a speedboat while under the influence of alcohol when he ran it into the shoreline.

According to the prosecution, his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit when the incident occurred. Barkus, a Republican state senator, had been arrested for drunk driving before.

Barkus’ DUI attorney in the case was a man who had himself been arrested for DUI before. The lawyer’s case was dismissed however, because the police officer who would’ve testified in the case was killed by a drunk driver.

In addition, the Barkus case prosecuter’s deputy attorney had a previous arrest for DUI, as did the ex-husband of the case’s original judge.

Across Montana, numerous judges, attorneys, lawmakers and celebrities around the state have faced DUI arrests. Public prominence seems to play no part in the demographic of those impacted by drunk driving.

While certainly many people across America have felt the impact of DUI arrests on friends, family and community, the Barkus case is a microscopic view of a larger problem.

Montana, which ranks among the highest in U.S. states in terms of the rate of alcohol-related vehicle accidents, has a culture of fierce independence, in which citizens are wary of giving up their personal rights.

DUI laws took longer to reach Montana, even as other states adopted them, and a colonel in the Montana Highway Patrol has stated that the prevalent culture in the state is to view drinking and driving as “Montana birthright.”

Advocates of tougher DUI laws in Montana argue that a reduction in DUI-related accidents ensure a more universal right: the right to safer roads. The only way, in their eyes, to solve the problem is to change the culture of drinking and driving in Montana, so that peer pressure and community awareness drive positive change where lawmaking may fall short.