Drug-impaired driving is a serious criminal offense that risks significant legal consequences. In Montana, driving under the influence of drugs is treated with the same severity as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Montana law prohibits operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug that impairs the ability to drive safely. This includes not only illegal substances but also prescription and over-the-counter medications if they impair driving ability. Montana’s approach to drug-impaired driving reflects a growing recognition of the dangers posed by driving under the influence of various substances, not just alcohol.
Reliable detection remains a challenge
One of the critical challenges in prosecuting drug-impaired driving cases is the detection and measurement of impairment. Unlike alcohol, for which impairment can be relatively easily measured using blood alcohol concentration levels in breath or blood, determining impairment from drugs is more complex.
Montana law enforcement officers may use field sobriety tests and chemical tests, such as blood tests, to ascertain impairment. The presence of drugs in one’s system doesn’t automatically equate to impairment, making these cases more nuanced. Because of this, field sobriety tests are often used to provide an idea of impairment. However, those tests are often scrutinized because of the subjective nature of interpreting the results.
Penalties can change due to circumstances
The penalties for a conviction can be severe if a driver is found guilty of impaired driving in Montana. The consequences typically depend on the number of prior offenses and the case’s specific circumstances. Penalties for a first offense may include fines, potential jail time and suspension of one’s driver’s license.
The severity of these penalties increases with subsequent offenses. In cases involving accidents or injuries, the charges and penalties can escalate significantly, potentially leading to felony charges.
Montana’s laws also account for the use of marijuana, which, although legal for certain uses, still prohibits driving under the influence. This means that even legally consumed marijuana can lead to an impaired driving charge if it impairs driving ability.
Anyone charged with drugged driving should learn about their options for a defense strategy. Understanding how the facts of their case may impact the outcome is critical when constructing a response to impaired driving charges.