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Elements of a DUI Offense in Montana

Driving Under the Influence

The most common DUI offense and the first of the multiple DUI related laws in Montana is the offense of “Driving Under the Influence.” In order to violate the law, a person 21-years or older must:

  1. Drive OR be in actual physical control;
  2. Of a motor-vehicle; AND
  3. While under the influence (or, “having a diminished ability to safely operate that vehicle”)  of
    1. Alcohol;
    2. A dangerous drug;
    3. Any other drug; OR
    4. Any combination of alcohol, dangerous drugs, or any other drugs;

Driving with Excessive Alcohol Concentration

The next DUI offense created by the state of Montana is “Driving with Excessive Alcohol Concentration.” The law separates itself between “commercial” and “noncommercial” motor vehicles (please see below for a more detailed account of commercial vehicles). For the purpose of this section, the elements provided are concerned only with noncommercial motor vehicles as they are the traditional vehicles operated by individuals, and likely the vehicle of concern. In order to violate this law, a person 21 years of age or older must:

  1. Drive OR be in actual physical control;
  2. Of a noncommercial motor-vehicle; AND
  3. The person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 or more;

Blood Alcohol Concentration

As stated above, Montana has created a separate statute for driving a vehicle with an alcohol concentration (or commonly known as “Blood Alcohol Concentration” or “BAC”) above an established limit.  Montana and other states have created devices which are capable of measuring a person’s alcohol consumption through the trace of alcohol in their breath and blood.  In Montana, the concentration is measured by grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. For a more detailed account of the Blood Alcohol Concentration, see below.

Absolute Liability

Both “Driving Under the Influence” and “Driving with Excessive Alcohol Concentration” are to be imposed with “Absolute Liability.” Unlike other common criminal offenses, the state is not required to establish a specific state of mind that an individual had in order to find the person violated the law. For most criminal offense, a person would have to “knowingly” “negligently,” or “purposely” commit certain or all elements of a crime (also known as the “mens rea” element(s) of an offense). This is not so with “Driving Under the Influence” and “Driving with Excessive Alcohol Concentration.” As far as the law is concerned, it doesn’t matter that an individual didn’t purposely drive with an excessive alcohol concentration or that an individual didn’t know about his excessive alcohol concentration. When a law is imposed with “Absolute Liability,” the state of mind of that individual has no weight as to whether a crime has been committed, a sad reality that many face when charged with any DUI related crime.

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