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How does the ‘lookback period’ affect a DUI charge?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2024 | Criminal Law |

Montana, like other U.S. states, takes driving under the influence (DUI) offenses very seriously. A conviction for the offense leads to imprisonment, fines, the suspension of the driver’s license and even a requirement to attend a chemical dependency treatment program.

However, the severity of a DUI charge can increase depending on the number of prior offenses a driver may have. Montana has something called a “lookback period,” which is the length of time a drunk driving offense remains on a person’s record. If you face charges and you have a history of DUI, you can expect increased penalties – if your earlier convictions fall within the lookback period.

What’s the lookback period?

In Montana, the lookback period depends on the number of DUI offenses a person committed. It works like this:

  • First DUI offense: No lookback period, as there’s no prior DUI offense.However, if you have a previous DUI offense that occurred more than 10 years ago, your current offense may be treated as if it was your first again.
  • Second DUI offense: There’s a 10-year lookback period, so if your first offense occurred within the last 10 years, your current criminal charge becomes more severe.
  • Third and subsequent offenses: At this point, there’s no limitation to the lookback period. Regardless of how long ago your previous offenses are, they’ll enhance the penalties of your third and later DUIs.

The lookback period determines whether an offense is treated as a first-time DUI or a subsequent offense. However, once you hit your third DUI, the court will consider all your offenses across your lifetime in sentencing.

The consequences of prior DUIs

The existence of prior DUI offenses within the lookback period can elevate the charges against you. For instance, a first DUI violation is punishable by up to six months of jail and $1,000 in fines. However, if you have a previous offense on record, your second DUI violation can lead to up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines.

It’s vital for those with a history of DUIs to understand where they stand in relation to Montana’s lookback period. If you’re facing a new DUI charge and have previous offenses, you’ll need guidance on how your record affects your case. A legal professional may be able to provide this guidance on top of protecting your rights in court.