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Asked Question About Drinking and Driving
1. Q: Do you have to be "drunk" to be guilty
of drunk driving?
A: No. Years ago, a drunk driving charge meant
someone was "drunk" in the way all of us commonly understand
the word - intoxicated. But today, intoxication as we know it is
not required for one to be guilty of drunk driving. During the last
ten years public outcry against the toll of injury and death which
drinking drivers inflict has changed the laws against drunk driving
radically and made them much more severe. So the criminal laws against
drinking and driving now mean operating a vehicle with considerably
less alcohol in your system than what we customarily recognize as
being enough to make a person drunk.
You may not think you are drunk. Those around you may not think
you are drunk. Indeed, for the purpose of every other situation
except driving, you may not even be considered drunk. But your condition
may be enough for you to be found guilty of a drunk driving offense
under the current definition of the law. And if you are convicted,
you will suffer some very harsh penalties.
2. Q: Legally, just what is "drunk driving?"
A: A drunk driving offense, sometimes called driving
while intoxicatedDWI or driving
under the influenceDUI, really has three
(1) Driving with any amount of alcohol in your system which
causes your physical abilities to be impaired in any way.
(2) Driving with a level of alcohol in your system which amounts
to a measurement of.08 of blood alcohol content. To be guilty
of this offense, absolutely no impairment of any of your physical
abilities is necessary. You may well be the world's most talented,
careful and safest driver, but if your blood alcohol content registers
.08 or above you are guilty of a criminal offense.
(3) Driving with drugs in your system or with a combination
of drugs and alcohol, no matter what the amounts of those substances
may be, where your physical abilities have become impaired in
It does not matter if the drugs are legal , over the counter medications
like antihistamines, nor does it matter if you have a prescription
to take the drugs. If you are impaired as a result of taking them,
then you are guilty of a criminal offense.
3. Q: What amount of alcohol do I need to drink to have
a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher?
A: Each person's blood alcohol content from drinking
certain amounts of alcohol will vary, depending upon a number of
factors. The main factor is your weight. To calculate your blood
alcohol content based upon having normal drinks such as a 12 oz.
beer, a 4 ounce glass of wine, or a single mixed drink containing
a one ounce shot of 100 proof liquor, the following rule of thumb
is an illustration:
120 lbs: one drink in one hour -- .032
two drinks in one hour -- .064
three drinks in one hour -- .096
180 lbs: one drink in one hour -- .021
two drinks in one hour -- .042
three drinks in one hour -- .063
four drinks in one hour -- .084
4. Q: What kind of reason does a police officer or highway
patrolman need to have in order to stop me to investigate whether
or not I am driving under the influence?
A: The officer must have what is legally termed
a "reasonable suspicion," based on something unusual that
is actually observed about the way a person is driving. This is
a very low standard and it can be satisfied by virtually anything
which appears out of the ordinary and that might be a sign of a
driver being under the influence. In addition, during holiday seasons,
police officers typically set up field sobriety checkpoints where
they routinely stop every driver who passes through the checkpoint.
These checkpoints do not require the officer to observe anything
suspicious about a person before stopping and investigating someone.
5. Q: What happens to me if I am pulled over by the police
or the highway patrol for investigation of drunk driving?
A: If you are stopped, always be courteous and
cooperative with the officer even if you are 100% clean of any type
of alcohol or drugs, and even if you are certain that your driving
did not show anything unusual. Never argue with the officer. Law
enforcement is a tough, often nerve wracking job and the "attitude"
you show to the officer can often make all the difference as to
whether or not the encounter will be an unpleasant one for you.
6. Q: What will happen if the officer who pulls me over
suspects that I have been driving under the influence?
A: The officer will ask you to get out of the
car and will instruct you to perform a series of "field sobriety
tests." These are standard physical ability measures and they
(1) Reciting the alphabet from A to Z;
(2) Closing your eyes and bringing both index fingers together;
(3) Walking along a straight line;
(4) Standing on one foot for a few seconds;
(5) Picking up a coin dropped on the ground;
In addition to these tests, some officers typically have certain
field sobriety testing devices which they use. One such device is
a breath meter which you blow into. Another is a light to shine
in your eyes in order to test your pupil reaction. It is very important
that if you suffer from any chronic physical problems, such as difficulty
with your balance, problems walking or with your legs or feet, that
you inform the officer of these things before you go through the
field sobriety tests.
7. Q: What happens if the officer believes that I have
not performed the field sobriety tests satisfactorily?
A: At that point you will be told that you are
under arrest for driving under the influence. You will be hand cuffed,
searched for weapons, placed in the back of the officer's car and
taken to a jail for further tests. At the jail you will also be
booked and held there until you post bail or until a judge releases
you on your own recognizance without bail. Once again, as upsetting
and as stressful as being arrested is, it is essential that you
continue to act courteously and cooperatively with the officer.
Do not argue, threaten or become belligerent in any way. This type
of behavior will only make the experience even more unpleasant for
8. Q: What is a blood alcohol test?
A: This is a physical procedure to determine how
much alcohol you actually have in your system. There are three ways
of doing this test:
(1) Drawing a sample of blood from your arm;
(2) Obtaining a urine sample;
(3) Obtaining a breath sample by having you blow into a machine
called a breathalyzer; (This is different from the field sobriety
breath device described above.
The breathalyzer is much more sophisticated and exact.
You have the choice of which one of these three tests you will take.
The only time your ability to choose which test you take can legally
be restricted is if you are in a locality that simply does not have
a breathalyzer. The officer is required to tell you that the option
as to which test you take is up to you. But quite often officers
will try to pressure or browbeat a person into taking the blood
test because this is the most effective procedure for the prosecution
to use against a person in court. You do not have the right to refuse
to take any test. Legally, the officer could hold you down and forcibly
draw a blood sample from your veins. In practice this rarely happens
except where an accident is involved which caused death or serious
bodily injury. Instead, if you refuse to take a test, your driver's
license is automatically suspended for one year. Also, in your trial,
the jury will be told that you refused to take the test and the
judge will instruct the jury that they can consider your refusal
as evidence of your guilt.
9. Q: What should I know in order to make an intelligent
choice about which blood alcohol test I should take?
A: As mentioned above, from the standpoint of
the police and prosecution they will always prefer to have the more
accurate sample of your actual blood to use against you as evidence
in court. The least accurate and least reliable test is of a urine
sample. However, if it has been some period of time from when you
had your last drink to when you give the urine sample, the sample
may test out to your disadvantage with an inaccurately high reading
against you. This is because in such a situation, the alcohol content
in your excreted urine is actually greater than the amount of alcohol
you have remaining in your system.
On the other hand, a breath test may show an inaccurately high
reading against you if you take the breath test shortly after your
last drink. This is because of the high alcohol content lingering
in the mouth, esophagus, and the upper digestive system. If you
have used any kind of breath spray, mouthwash or even should you
burp shortly before the breath test, then the reading could be inaccurately
high against you. Both the blood and the urine samples will also
show the presence of drugs as well as alcohol. However a breath
test can only determine alcohol content and nothing about drugs.
Whichever test you take must be given to you within 3 hours of when
you were driving.
10. Q: What are the penalties for driving while under the
A: Drunk driving penalties have become very severe
in the past few years. For a first offense, the maximum possible
penalties the court could impose are:
(1) 6 months in the county jail:
(2) $1,000 fine plus up to an additional $1,950 in penalty assessments;
(3) 6 months driver's license suspension;
(4) Your car impounded for 30 days.
Second, third and fourth offenses within 7 years are punished by
increasingly more harsh penalties. For third and fourth convictions,
your license must be revoked for 3 and 4 years respectively. A fourth
offense can even be prosecuted against you as a felony carrying
a maximum term of 3 years in state prison along with your car being
ordered sold and the proceeds going to the state. In addition to
all of the above penalties, the price of auto insurance increases
drastically after any conviction for a driving under the influence
offense. The bottom line legal and practical advice to draw from
all of all of the above is very clear:
In a DUI arrest, depending on the state, the officer will order you to take either a breath or blood test
If you fail (or refuse to take) a breath test, the arresting officer will take your license, and give you a yellow temporary license (Notice/Sworn Report/Temporary License). If your license was valid, the temporary license will be valid for 30 days from the date of arrest. In a blood test, the officer will send the Notice/Sworn Report / Temporary License to the DMV to issue a temporary license by mail.
News about DUI & Drunk Driving cases in Montana and nationwide:
OUI is operating or attempting to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants. "Intoxicants" are any substance, including alcohol and both illegal and prescription drugs. A person is "under the influence" if their mental or physical faculties are impaired to the slightest degree, regardless of whether it affects the a actual operation of the vehicle.
Sometimes referred to as a “first appearance.” This date is typically located on the DWI Summons & Complaint near the “court appearance required” box that should be checked off. The arraignment is a formal procedure where rights are read, charges are read and explained, and a plea (guilty or not guilty) is entered.
Zero Tolerance Policy
Prohibition of drinking for those under the age of 21
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