One drunk driving charge can be chalked up to a bad choice, and a lot of people stop at one, learn their lesson, and never drive drunk again. But some people don’t learn the hard way, and they rack up repeat drunk driving convictions.
Take one man in Montana for example. He’s been arrested not just once, not three times, but a whopping nine time for drunk driving. His ninth charge resulted from crashing into a moving vehicle and then into two parked cars. When he was arrested he also refused to submit to a breathalyzer test and was forced to submit a blood sample at the hospital.
You’d think with nine drunk driving charges on his record, as well as the count of felony criminal mischief he received during his ninth arrest, that he’d be going to prison for quite some time. Not so: five years in jail is all this man will receive for his ninth drunk driving conviction.
That seems like a fairly light sentence when you take a few things into consideration. The lookback period for a drunk driving charge in Montana is a lifetime. That means any charge he’s had on his record should be considered when he’s arrested again. For repeat offenders in Montana, a fourth drunk driving conviction is an automatic felony, and that charge should come with significant jail time.
According to Montana drunk driving law, a three time or more repeat offender should see the inside of a jail cell for up to a year. They’ll also pay fines up to $5000, lose their driver’s license for one year, and will be required to install an ignition interlock. Considering he was on his eighth drunk driving charge when he was arrested this last time, one hast to wonder how he was allowed to be driving at all, especially without an ignition interlock.
Out of all of the states, Montana is considered once of the most lenient. It ranked 40 out of 51 states where number one, Arizona, is considered to be the most strict for drunk driving arrests. That leniency shows in drunk driving sentences, especially when you compare this five year sentence with a man in Texas was who also arrested for his ninth drunk driving charge. He ended up with life in prison, and his last arrest was a crash where no one died either.
Is nine times the charm? With only five years in jail to mull it over, you have to wonder if this repeat drunk driver will ever learn to stop drinking and driving. At the very least, Montana should consider passing a real ignition interlock law. At present, the state does not require interlock devices for any offenses – they are discretionary, meaning they are only installed if a judge orders them. More than half the states in the country now mandate ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses. It might be time for Montana to protect its citizens from impaired drivers. Interlock laws would be a good place to start.