HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A bill to double DUI fines and charge people who don’t consent to breath tests will be reconsidered in the Montana Senate this weekend.
House Bill 488 failed on a 24-26 vote Friday, but senators later voted 26-24 to discuss and vote on it again Saturday.
The proposal would double minimum fines for driving under the influence and clarify that the same penalties apply to people driving high on marijuana. It would also levy a $300 fine on anyone who refuses to submit to a breath, blood or urine drug test and use those funds to process blood-draw search warrants.
Republican Rep. Keith Regier of Kalispell brought the bill to address what he and supporters call Montana’s lax DUI penalties.
“Minimum fines for DUIs have gone untouched for many years, making Montana one of the least punitive states in the nation on first and subsequent DUIs,” said Sen. Roger Webb, R-Billings, who carried the bill in the Senate.
Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte, said the proposed fine for denying an initial drug test is unnecessary and negates people’s right to refuse a Breathalyzer test. “I’m so tired of trying to pick people’s pockets over these bills,” Keane said of proposals to increase fines.
Webb agreed with Keane’s reasoning for opposing the new fine, saying “when is enough enough?” But he said the new fine would put the financial burden of obtaining blood samples on those who refuse them instead of state taxpayers.
As for the doubled fines for those found guilty, Webb said that, with numerous Montana drivers receiving five or more DUI convictions, the state must address its high rate of DUI recidivism. “Evidently, we’re not getting folks’ attention,” Webb said.
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