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What happens when you get a DUI in Billings?

Here's what you need to know...
  • There are strict laws for driving under the influence in Billings
  • Montana is an implied consent state
  • Penalties for DUI depend largely on whether you have had previous offenses
  • Finding affordable car insurance after a DUI might be difficult

Getting a DUI in any state can have serious consequences. However, it’s helpful if you know what to expect if you’re ever pulled over under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

Here’s what you should know about the laws in Montana and how they can have an impact on your life.

If you are also looking for auto insurance in Billings, start comparison shopping for the best rates by entering your ZIP code above!

DUI Laws


Montana has a 10-year lookback period. DUI charges will remain relevant for sentencing for a full decade.

Previously, the lookback period was only five years, but it was extended in 2013.

The first thing you should know is what criteria the state uses to determine if someone is driving while under the influence.

An open container is defined as any bottle, jar, can, or other receptacles that hold an alcoholic beverage. The open container must have a broken seal, be open, or have evidence that some of the contents have been removed.

Additionally, the open container must be in a location where it could immediately be consumed by any person in the car.

The one exception is that an open container may be stored in a locked glovebox. In the event of a traffic stop, the person in possession of the open container will be ticketed. Another exception is for recreational vehicles. Open containers may be in the living quarters of these vehicles.

The allowable blood alcohol content levels vary based on age and the type of license that you carry. Blood alcohol charts are available to help you determine how many drinks you can consume before meeting any of these levels.

Adults who wish to have a drink with dinner can have a blood alcohol level of up to .07 percent. At .08 percent or higher, you are considered intoxicated and will be ticketed and charged with the crime.

Montana is a zero tolerance state, so underage drivers are not allowed to have any alcohol in their system.

Commercial drivers are held to higher standards that non-commercial operators. Their BAC limit is .04 percent.

Breathalyzer Tests

Montana is an implied consent state, so drivers in Billings are required to take a blood or breath test if they are suspected of or arrested for DUI. The law demands that the test is taken as soon as possible for improved accuracy in reading the levels.

Officers may take a preliminary test out in the field before taking a driver into custody. Once arrested, a chemical test may be required.

It is illegal to refuse the preliminary or blood test. First-time offenders may face a six-month license suspension, and additional offenses can lead to a one-year suspension.

The following process takes place when you refuse to take the test:

  • The officer may notify you of the potential consequences
  • Your license may be confiscated by the officer at the scene
  • Officers may be able to get a court order compelling you to comply if this is a subsequent offense for you

DUI Penalties

The state has implemented strict standards in order to deter people from drinking and driving.

The consequences are progressive and grow more severe with each guilty verdict.

With a first offense, you can expect the following penalties the first time you’re charged with DUI:

  • Two days to six months in jail
  • Fines of $300 to $1,000
  • Six-month license suspension
  • IID (Interlock Ignition Device) may be required

The second offense comes with a longer jail term of seven days to six months, and the fines will be between $600 and $1,000. The IID will be required, and the license suspension will last for a full year.

For the third offense, expect to spend between 30 days and a year in jail. The maximum fine can be as high as $5,000, and a one-year license suspension is mandatory. As with lesser infractions, the IID will be required.

Lastly, habitual offenders can face up to five years in jail and a fine of $10,000 for driving while intoxicated. Habitual offenders are defined as people with four or more convictions in a 10-year period.

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Points System

States like Montana have adopted a point or demerit system to help track a driver’s habits and keep the roads safer. Traffic violations carry different point values, and you can have your license suspended when you reach a certain level.

In Billings, accruing 15 or more points in a three-year period will result in a six-month license suspension. Earning six points or more in 18 months will result in a mandatory counseling session, or drivers may have to retake their examination.

The following are some of the infractions you may commit and the corresponding points:

  • Negligent homicide – 12 points
  • Driving while intoxicated – 10 points
  • Leaving an accident scene where a person was injured – 8 points
  • Speeding on the highway – 5 points
  • Speeding – 3 points
  • Driving too fast for road conditions – 2 points

Points do eventually expire, but the actual conviction will remain on your driving record indefinitely. Insurance companies will still have access to the information, but you may be able to obtain more attractive premiums by shopping around.

Revocation and Suspension


The state reserves the right to place sanctions against a motorist who has accumulated too many points or is guilty of another offense. With a suspension, you will not be allowed to drive for a set period of time.

In addition to the points, common reasons for suspensions include:

  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Refusing to submit to blood alcohol level testing
  • Non-payment of fines or failure to appear on a notice
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Default on student loans
  • Unsatisfied judgments
  • Driver medically unable to safely operate vehicle

The state also has the power to revoke a license completely. If you are subjected to license revocation, you will lose driving privileges indefinitely.

You may be subject to this if you’re found guilty of:

  • Negligent homicide resulting from operation of motor vehicle
  • Using a motor vehicle to commit a felony
  • Failure to stop and render aid in a motor vehicle where another person was injured or killed
  • Committing perjury in matters related to ownership or operation of motor vehicles
  • Negligent vehicle assault
  • Habitual traffic violations with 30 or more points accumulated in a three-year period

You may be able to have your driving privileges reinstated after paying all applicable fines, showing proof of the payment to the courts, and providing the courts with proof of liability insurance.

In some cases, the courts may request that you submit an SR-22 Certificate from your insurance company to prove that you’re covered.

DUI Precautions

One of the top ways Montana ensures that offenders don’t drive drunk again is with an ignition interlock device. These tools must be rented from a company and professionally installed.

The driver must blow into the mouthpiece to determine blood alcohol content to start the car.

The device may only be removed after a certain period of time has passed, and the driver is expected to maintain a clean record during that time.

Insuring a DUI Offender

If you’ve been turned down for coverage, then you may need to go with a high-risk company that specializes in drivers with DUIs or high point levels.

Insurance companies are very upfront about the fact that rates will rise for people with DUI convictions, and some providers will refuse to underwrite a policy completely.

You may be able to obtain rates by offering to outfit your car with preventive tools, including an ignition interlock device or a special tool for tracking your driving habits.

You can also ask for discounts as you maintain a clean record over the coming years. Remember that you can also shop around for better plans as your driving record improves.
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