Montana Alcohol Laws: What’s Legal and Not Legal

Montana alcohol laws apply both to residents and visitors. Those who  visit may not know its alcohol laws. They may be different than those in their own state. Not knowing the laws makes it easier to break them by accident. But ignorance of the law is no defense.

I. Minimum Alcohol Laws

          Overview

I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice

Young people sometimes want to work part-time. Hospitality offers many jobs they can do. But they need to know the minimum age for the jobs.

Many involve working with alcohol. What is the lowest age for serving in a restaurant that sells alcohol? For tending bar? For selling alcohol for off-site consumption?

Montana alcohol laws permit adults to work as servers in venues that sell alcohol to drink on-site. An adult is anyone 18 or older. They may be bartenders. Also, they may sell alcohol for consumption elsewhere. This makes it easy for young adults to get work experience.

montana alcohol lawsThose of any age below 21 may drink alcoholic beverages. But a parent or guardian must provide it. They may drink alcohol at any private location except in a business that sells alcohol. This makes it legal to drink, for example, at a party. But the drinking may not lead to intoxication. This is defined as a BAC not higher than 0.05 “or substantial or visible mental or physical impairment.”

Many parents serve alcohol to their young people, especially at dinner. They do this to demystify alcohol and teach moderation. They think it’s better to learn how to drink in the parents’ house than in a fraternity house.

Those under 21 may not buy alcohol. Using a false ID to buy it is a criminal act. It is also a criminal act to sell, lend, give,  or make a fake ID

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC greater than 0.02.

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

Montana has a government monopoly on all liquor stores in the state. That is, it owns them and prohibits any others from operating. Its monopoly stores are open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Some are open longer but most close on Sundays. Bars with package licenses may also sell distilled spirits. Spirits are vodka, gin, tequila, scotch, rum, bourbon, etc.

Grocery and convenience stores may sell beer and wine from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Restaurants may sell alcohol from 11:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.

Breweries may provide samples from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. However, they may not provide more than 48 ounces per customer.

No alcohol retailer may sell alcohol between 2:00 a.m. am and 8 am.

montana alcohol lawsIt’s a violation of Montana alcohol laws to sell alcohol to anyone under 21. That includes active adult members of the U.S. military. There are strict penalties for doing so. Montana’s laws actually refer to them as children.

A first offense carries a fine of $500 and possible imprisonment for up to six months. A second offense brings a fine of $1,000 and possible incarceration for up to six months.

It’s also illegal to sell alcohol to an intoxicated person.

Buying Alcohol

It’s illegal for anyone under age 21, even if adult, to buy an alcoholic beverage. And it’s equally illegal to try to buy alcohol. Montana’s alcohol laws are very strict about this.

First Offense
  • Fine of between $100 and $300.
  • Driver’s license confiscation for 30 days.
  • Community Service for 20 hours.
  • Completion of substance abuse course. Offender must pay all costs of course.
Second Offense
  • Fine of between $200 and $600.
  • Driver’s license confiscation for six months.
  • Community Service of 40 hours.
  • Completion of substance abuse course. Offender must pay all costs of course.
  • Complete a chemical dependency assessment and treatment.
Third Offense
  • wyoming alcohol lawsFine of between $300 and $900.
  • Driver’s license confiscation for six months.
  • Completion of substance abuse course. Offender must pay all costs of course.
  • Complete a chemical dependency assessment and treatment.
Other Information

It is legal for those under 21 to enter any business that sells alcohol. However, the business is free to deny their entrance. That may apply to either after certain hours or anytime.

Businesses may confiscate any ID presented to them that is false.

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone who is intoxicated.

Those under 21 may buy beverages that contain less than one half of one percent alcohol.

Driving and Alcohol

montana alcohol lawsMontana alcohol laws prohibit driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. The state defines DUI is terms of blood alcohol concentration (BAC). These are the illegal levels.

  • 0.02% for drivers under 21.
  • 0.04% for commercial drivers.
  • 0.02% for other drivers.

However, law enforcement officers have wide discretion. They may arrest drivers for DUI with BACs far below illegal limits.

Penalties for First DUI

  • A fine of of $600 to $1,000.
  • Imprisonment for 24 hours to six months.
  • Driver’s license suspension for six months.
Penalties for Second DUI

A fine of $1,200 to $2,000.

  • Imprisonment for 14 days to one year.
  • Driver’s license suspension for one year.
  • Possible required participation in the Montana 24/7 sobriety program. This requires participants to take BAC tests throughout every day.
Penalties for Third DUI
  • montana alcohol lawsA fine of $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Imprisonment for 60 days to one year.
  • Driver’s license suspension for one year.
  • Possible required to participation in the Montana 24/7 sobriety program. This requires participants to take BAC tests throughout every day.

Drivers under 21 face different penalties for DUI. If their BAC is 0.08% or higher, the judge may order them to install an ignition interlock device IID) on their vehicle. The IID prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is in the driver’s breath.

First DUI Offense
  • A fine of $300 to $1,000.
  • Imprisonment for one day to six months.
  • Driver’s license suspension for 90 days.
Second DUI Offense
  • montana alcohol lawsA fine $600 to $1,000.
  • Imprisonment for seven days to six months.
  • Driver’s license suspension for one year.

Aggravated DUI brings higher fines and longer imprisonment. This charge occurs when

  • Driver’s BAC was 0.16 or higher.
  • An IID is on the driver’s vehicle.
  • Driver’s license was suspended or revoked due to a prior DUI conviction at the time of the arrest.
  • Person uses Constitutional right to decline chemical testing and
    license was suspended, canceled, or revoked. That, because of DUI within the last ten years
  • Driver has a conviction or pending charge for DUI, Aggravated DUI, negligent vehicular assault or negligent homicide within 10 years. Or has two or more convictions or pending charges for DUI, aggravated DUI, negligent vehicular assault or negligent homicide.
Driver Rights

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline submitting to a chemical test. However, Montana alcohol laws punish drivers who use their right. Declining the first time is punished with a driver’s license suspension for six months. On any other occasions a driver uses that right, the suspension is for one year.

montana alcohol lawsHowever, there is no legal penalty for not taking a field sobriety test when asked to do so. These tests are highly subjective and notoriously unreliable. For example, about one-third of completely sober people who take a field sobriety test fail it. That is, about one of three people with zero alcohol (0.00%) can’t pass.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers not to take a field sobriety test – ever. They say to politely decline. And to do so as many times as necessary. Officers use clever ways to talk people into doing what lawyers say they should never do. Many officers falsely insist that the law requires it. No law does.

Officers who pull drivers over for suspected DUI are making a criminal investigation. In doing so, it is perfectly legal for them to mislead, be dishonest, and to lie to a suspect. If you are a suspect in a crime, the officer is never your friend or ally.

Discover much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

A good rule: Never drink and drive

Boating and Alcohol

montana alcohol lawsMontana alcohol laws prohibit boating while intoxicated (BWI). That is, operating or being in actual physical control of a motorboat, sailboat, water-skis, surfboard, or similar device while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause balance problems, poor vision, reduced coordination, impaired judgment, and slower reaction time. Not surprisingly, it contributes to a number of boating accidents across the country.
Any of these, among many other things, are signs of possible BUI. Law enforcement officers look for them.

Boating violation of any type.
Erratic operation of the boat.
Loud or boisterous behavior.
Slurred speech.
Speeding.

When it comes to boating, alcohol and water don’t mix.

III. Resources on Montana  Alcohol Laws

 

IV. Seek Good Advice

Laws can be unclear. For example, Montana alcohol laws define non-intoxicating drinking this way. A BAC no higher than 0.05 “or substantial or visible mental or physical impairment.”

A person can easily interpret that in more than one way. Law isn’t a do-it-yourself task. Lawyers study the subject for years. One small mistake could be very bad. Never rely on this or any other site.

Get information and advice about Montana alcohol laws from a lawyer who has a license in the state. Don’t take a chance.