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Negligent vehicular assault – when drunk driving goes wrong

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Firm News |

All U.S. states consider driving under the influence (DUI) a crime for a very good reason. An intoxicated driver is a serious safety risk to other drivers and pedestrians due to their impaired vision, reduced concentration, lack of coordination and poor judgment.

But what happens if a drunk driver causes a collision which injures another person? Under Montana law, the act is a criminal offense called negligent vehicular assault. This is a grave offense; a conviction will lead to fines and prison time.

Committing negligent vehicular assault

According to state rules, a person who negligently operates a vehicle while under the influence of either alcohol, a drug or a combination of the two and who causes bodily injury to another person is guilty of negligent vehicular assault.

If a court convicts a person of negligent vehicular assault, the person faces imprisonment for up to one year in a county jail and $1,000 in fines. The court will also order the convicted to pay restitution to the victim.

However, if the offense results in serious bodily injury – an injury involving a substantial risk of death, permanent loss or impairment – a conviction instead leads to up to ten years of prison time and $10,000 in fines. The convicted must also pay restitution to the victim.

Rules for restitution

Offenders ordered to provide restitution must remember that the duty to pay remains with them and their estate until the obligation is fully paid. If the offender misses payments for six months or more, the payment amount gains interest at 3%.

If the offender can’t pay any restitution due to circumstances out of their control, a court may order the offender to perform community service instead.

What sets negligent vehicular assault apart from a regular vehicular collision is that the former could’ve been avoided altogether had the driver not recklessly decided to drive while drunk. Jail time, fines and an order to pay restitution await anyone charged with the offense. If you face a charge, consider consulting a legal professional to understand your rights in court.