HELENA – The 2011 Legislature is still nine months away, but lawmakers are already moving forward with ideas for new laws targeting alcohol and driving. Here’s a look at some of the proposed bills that have come out of the Interim Law and Justice Committee, which is studying Montana’s DUI problem.

To become law, these ideas would have to be approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor:

  • People under the age of 18 who do not already have a driver’s license and are convicted of any type of drug or alcohol offense will not be able to get a driver’s license until they are 18. If the young person already has a driver’s license, it will be suspended until the person is 18.
  • Everyone who sells or serves alcohol must take the responsible sales and service training program offered by the Liquor Control Division.
  • A guaranteed source of money, such as fines collected for DUI offenses, would be created for DUI courts. Now, many such courts are run by grants as pilot projects.
  • A new “on-call” judge would be available around the clock to request a search warrant for blood alcohol tests for DUI suspects who refuse to take them. Currently, Montanans do not have to submit to a blood alcohol tests. Failure to submit to a breathalyzer results in another criminal charge. Still, some prosecutors have identified refusing to “blow” as a hurdle to successfully prosecuting drunken drivers.
  • Finally, one proposed law would allow judges to sentence a person to residential treatment on second or third drunken driving convictions.

Committee members also had proposals that got shot down:

  • One would have made people who host parties where alcohol is served liable if a guest gets drunk and drives drunk.
  • Another would have identified anyone who gets a second or third drunken driving offense as a drunken driver, and applied that identification to the person’s driver’s license, making it illegal for anyone to sell or serve that person alcohol.

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