If you are unfortunate enough to get more than one DUI conviction the price can be high. In Montana, there is a somewhat complicated system for counting prior convictions for how they are used in a later DUI charge. Why is it important? Because in Montana four or more lifetime DUI convictions is a felony. More than one usually requires jail time. So, how does the calculation work?
If you have less than three lifetime DUI convictions, from any state, then only DUI convictions for 5 years prior to the date of arrest can be used. So, if you have two other DUI convictions that were both 3 years ago, you would now be charged with a DUI (3rd Offense). If, however, you have less than 3 convictions, but any of them are more than 5 years old, the ones that are more than 5 years old will not count against you. In the prior example if one of the two convictions was more than 5 years old, but one is less than 5 years old, any new charge would be DUI (2nd offense).
Now, the 5 year rule does not apply if you have 3 or more lifetime DUI convictions. DUI convictions are no longer expunged from any one’s record and convictions count no matter what state you got them in and no matter how old you were. So, if you have three or more convictions in your lifetime, then any new DUI offense will be considered a DUI (4th or subsequent) and will be a Felony in Montana.
There is a complicated legal argument to challenge older DUI convictions to determine if they were constitutional in terms of being counted, but that is a subject for another blog entry. Please call my office if you would like to discuss any of these matters.
Every state is different, so this calculation may not apply to you if not in Montana.