Montana lawmakers target drunken driving

| 12/15/2010

Reining in the occurrences of drunken driving in Montana is expected to be a popular topic this year at the statehouse.

Montana is one of 23 states recently identified by the National Transportation Safety Board as needing to enact at least three more program elements to address hard-core drunken driving.

Supporters say changes are long overdue because Montana is consistently rated among the worst states in drunken driving statistics.

Intent of making changes, the Legislature’s interim Law and Justice Committee has spent the past year studying how best to address driving under the influence. Readying for the session that begins Jan. 3, 2011, the panel voted to introduce 14 bills on the topic.

Among the legislation expected to draw consideration:

Appoint a statewide on-call judge for search warrants to allow tests for blood alcohol content during days and hours that courts are not in session.

Make getting behind the wheel with any amount of dangerous drugs in a driver’s system a DUI offense.

Eliminate the five-year window that can be used to determine penalties for misdemeanor DUI cases. Instead, all prior offenses would be counted.

Authorize search warrants to obtain blood or breath tests in DUI cases. No longer would a person’s consent be necessary to administer the test.

Boost penalties for minors in possession. Violators would lose their driving privileges until their 18th birthday or for six months, whichever is longer.

One panel member, Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings, has filed his own bill addressing DUI offenses. The driver’s license of a person convicted at least twice of DUI would have a notation placed on the license to indicate the drunk or drugged driving offense. The notation would be removed when the license expires, as long as the person has no subsequent convictions.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Montana, click here.

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