Missoula DUI Defense Guide
A DUI in Missoula can be a scary experience. If you are accused of driving under the influence, McConnell Law can help protect your rights. If you do get arrested, call us.
If you have been drinking and you were “operating a motor vehicle,” you can be charged with DUI. It doesn’t matter if the motor vehicle was a car or a boat, if it has a motor, you can get a DUI.
1.Were you driving the vehicle?
2. Did you submit to the Field Sobriety Tests?
- Before an officer can ask you to submit to a field sobriety test, he must have legal grounds knows as “particularized suspicion.” This is the same legal basis for pulling your vehicle over.
- Officers employ three basic field tests:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – This is an eye test that was developed in a controlled laboratory in the 1980s.
- Straight-Line Test – This is as simple as it sounds. The officer asks the driver to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line, perform a little dance at the end, turn around, and walk back to where the driver started.
- One-Legged Stand – The officer has the driver stick one leg out, keeping their arms to their sides, and count to 20 or higher.
- These field sobriety tests were developed decades ago in highly controlled laboratory conditions. Their effectiveness in detecting whether a driver is over the limit is questionable at best.
3. Did you submit to a breath test?
- In Montana, when you get your driver’s license you are promising to submit to a breath test if you get pulled over. This is called the “implied consent” law. It means that if you refuse to blow at the roadside or in the police station, they can use your refusal against you in court.
- If you refuse the breath test, you will lose your license. Usually the license suspension is for 6 months.
- Even if you submitted a breath test that shows you were over the legal limit, it does not mean that you were driving under the influence.
4. If you’re arrested, here’s what happens:
- Bond. When you are arrested, you can usually bail out of jail within hours of your arrest. Your bond will vary, but most likely it will be between $685 and $1085, depending on whether you have any prior DUI charges.
- Arraignment. This is where the court tells you what you are being charged with. It is not necessary for you to enter your plea at this hearing – especially if you have not talked to a lawyer. The judge will set another hearing if you need to talk to a lawyer.
- License Suspension Hearing. If you refused to blow (provide a breath sample), you will get a 5-day temporary license. You also have the right to fight to keep your license, but you have 30 days to get a hearing. The clock starts the day you lost your license.
- Omnibus Hearing. This is a hearing where the court handles a few different things (omnibus is Latin for “a bunch of stuff”), including setting dates to file motions, dates for any hearings on the motions, and dates for pre-trial conferences. The schedule of your case is done at the omnibus hearing. By this time, all of the evidence must be disclosed by the government. If you have any evidence, you have to tell the other side about it. Usually the omnibus is scheduled several weeks after the arraignment.
- Pretrial Hearing. This is where the court hears about any issues that have come up. By this time, all of the evidence is disclosed and a plea offer has been made by the government. You and your lawyer will have a good idea if your case is going to go to trial.
- Trial. This one doesn’t need a lot of explanation. If you have never had a trial, it can be a nerve-wracking experience. The best way to deal with the nerves is to be prepared.
- Sentencing. If a jury finds you guilty, the judge may not sentence you right away. In many cases, he/she will set a date for sentencing. Sometimes the court will ask that a pre-sentence investigation is done.
- Expungement. Montana does not allow your record to be cleared unless you received a deferred sentence. Deferred means that if you have followed all the orders of the court, like taking the ACT class and paying all the fines, you have the chance to remove the charge from your record.
Bottom Line: Do not drink and drive. Call a cab. Call a friend. Bike. Walk.
If you make a mistake and drive after drinking, McConnell Law can help.
Schedule a free consultation to explore your legal options.
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