Angel, Coil & Bartlett | Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence Attorneys

Angel, Coil & Bartlett is a Bozeman, Montana law firm with trial attorneys specializing in Montana Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence defense and defending alcohol-related Montana crimes across the state of Montana. Contact our firm for more information as to how we can assist you in your case. Below are some common frequently asked questions (FAQs) we receive from our clients.

Why is it Important to Retain a Law Firm Experienced in Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence Charges?

Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence is a relatively new crime under Montana law. Defense of this crime involves much of the same complicated legal, technical and scientific principles involved in DUI defense although on a much more complex scale. As a client of our firm, our attorneys will scrutinize law enforcement’s actions in your case for evidence of failure to properly investigate the accident and failure to draw the appropriate inferences. We will question the scientific conclusions drawn from the crime scene investigation, collection of evidence and cause of death examination, which are often subject to alternative, exculpatory and noncriminal explanations. Our attorneys will dissect law enforcement’s investigative methods for evidence of Miranda violations and coercive police techniques, unlawful search and seizure procedures, and the improper drawing and handling of critical blood evidence.

What Should I Bring to My First Meeting With Your Office?

You should bring all of the court-related documents you have received from law enforcement and the Court. This may include the charging documents (Felony Information), affidavit of probable cause, a copy of your bond conditions if you have seen a judge, the “Implied Consent Advisory” form that was provided to you by law enforcement related to your breath test, blood test or refusal, and the document informing you of your next court hearing.

What is a Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence Charge in Montana?

The main difference between a Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence charge and a DUI charge is that, for Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence, the State must establish at trial, in addition that the person is guilty of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI), Operation of noncommercial vehicle by person with alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more—operation of commercial vehicle by person with alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more (DUI Per Se), or Operation of noncommercial vehicle or commercial vehicle by person under influence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (DUI Per Se (THC)), that:

(a) The accused operated his vehicle in a negligent manner; and

(b) The accused’s negligent driving caused the death of another human being.

What are the Potential Penalties for Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence?

Vehicular homicide is a very serious offense and a person convicted of this crime can be imprisoned for a term of up to 30 years and receive a fine up to $50,000. Upon conviction, the court is unable to defer imposition of sentencing as it is able to do most other Montana crimes. The Montana Legislature has specifically exempted vehicular homicide from its list of enacted crimes providing for the possibility of a second chance and dismissal of the charge after the convicted person has fully complied with the law for a period of time, changed his or her life and completed his or her rehabilitation requirements.

Additional penalties can include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Loss of your Montana or other state noncommercial or commercial driver’s license(s) and privilege(s).
  • Prosecution fees.
  • An alcohol evaluation by a licensed addiction counselor and the requirement that the person comply with any treatment recommendations made by the counselor.
  • Sentencing conditions that limit your ability to frequent establishments where alcohol is served.
  • A prohibition against the use of alcohol for a period of time.
  • Points on your driving record.
  • An increase in car insurance premiums.
  • The stigma associated with felony conviction.
  • A felony criminal record.
  • Commitment to the department of corrections.
  • A prison sentence
  • Felony probation or parole.

I Refused to Take a Breath or Blood Test Upon Request of the Arresting Officer. Under Montana’s “Implied Consent” Law, What Will Happen to My Driver’s License as a Result of Refusing to Take the Test?

Under Montana law, a person who operates or is in actual physical control of a vehicle upon ways of this state open to the public is considered to have given consent to a test or tests of the person’s blood or breath for the purpose of determining any measured amount or detected presence of alcohol or drugs in the person’s body. This is commonly referred to as Montana’s “Implied Consent” Law.

The breath or blood test or tests must be administered at the direction of a peace officer when:

  • The officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has been driving or has been in actual physical control of a vehicle upon ways of this state open to the public while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two and the person has been placed under arrest for a violation of DUI or Aggravated DUI;
  • The person is under the age of 21 and has been placed under arrest for a violation of Operation of Vehicle by Person Under 21 Years of Age With Alcohol Concentration of 0.02 or More; or
  • The officer has probable cause to believe that the person was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle:
    • In violation of DUI and the person has been involved in a motor vehicle accident or collision resulting in property damage;
    • Involved in a motor vehicle accident or collision resulting in serious bodily injury or death; or
    • In violation of Aggravated DUI.

Non-Commerical Driver’s License:

Upon a first refusal of a breath or blood test, the person will incur a suspension of 6 months with no provision for a restricted probationary license. Upon a second or subsequent refusal within 5 years of a previous refusal, a person will incur a suspension of 1 year with no provision for a restricted probationary license.

Commercial Driver’s License

If a person is the holder of a commercial driver’s license, in addition to any action taken against the driver’s noncommercial driving privileges upon a first refusal, the person’s commercial driver’s license will be suspended for a 1-year period and, upon a second or subsequent refusal,  the person’s commercial driver’s license will be suspended for life, subject to department rules adopted to implement federal rules allowing for license reinstatement, if the person is otherwise eligible, upon completion of a minimum suspension period of 10 years. If the person has a prior conviction of a “major offense” as defined under Montana law, arising from a separate incident, the conviction has the same effect as a previous testing refusal for the holder of a commercial driver’s license.

Challenging the Driver’s License Suspension Under Montana’s Implied Consent Law:

A person whose license is suspended in Montana has a right to contest the seizure of their license by filing a petition in district court. Montana law specifically provides that: “Within 30 days after notice of the right to a hearing has been given by a peace officer, a person may file a petition to challenge the license suspension or revocation in the district court in the county where the arrest was made.” See Montana Code annotated § 61-8-403.

Are These the Only Penalties I May Face For Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence?

No. There are many other possible penalties you can face if you are convicted of a Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence in Montana. Once you meet with one of our attorneys the other possible penalties will be discussed with you in detail in addition to your possible defenses.

I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong! Why Did I Get Arrested?

Because of the current negative political climate surrounding DUIs and alcohol related offenses, especially those involving death or bodily injury, prosecutors often feels obligated to charge individuals under these circumstances despite the lack of evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Curiously, public opinion is often more virulent and outspoken when one is accused of this crime than a person who is accused of other intentional, violent acts, such as assault with a weapon or murder. Unfortunately, this phenomenon makes defending these types of crimes more challenging than other criminal cases.

What Can I Expect From Your Firm?

You can expect us to represent you at all court-related phases of your case and aggressively advocate on your behalf. Vehicular homicide defense centers upon attacking the State’s evidence to establish that one or more of those elements cannot be proven at trial. For example, even if the accused was “under the influence” at the time of collision, the victim’s own unfortunate actions may have created circumstances that produced an unavoidable accident through no fault of the accused. The evidence could also establish that the accused was not “under the influence” while operating his vehicle or that he did not act in a negligent manner. The reality is that unavoidable automobile accidents occur every day and the fact that a person had drank some level of alcohol or consumed prescription medication or other drugs before driving does not, in and of itself, make the person guilty of vehicular homicide. Depending on the specific facts of your case, we will, for example:

  • Negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor in your case.
  • Examine your case for constitutional violations.
  • Scrutinize the officer’s administration of the standardized field sobriety tests you performed for errors.
  • Examine your case for non-alcohol and/or non-drug related reasons for your failure to perform the field sobriety tests to the officer’s satisfaction.
  • Challenge the validity of the non-standardized field sobriety tests the officer conducted.
  • Challenge the validity of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) results from your breath or blood test.
  • Challenge the legality of the officer’s request to have you submit to a breath or blood test.
  • Challenge the legality of the seizure of your driver’s license if the officer alleges you refused to take a blood or breath test.
  • Prepare your case for trial.
  • Try your case before a jury or judge.

Why Choose Our Firm?

Our attorneys realize that the vast majority of clients arrested for Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence have little or no prior criminal history or involvement with police. Consequently, we understand the stress our clients endure when they are accused of a felony offense and our attorneys are committed to helping you through the process and serving as a strong advocate who is on your side. Considering that defending alcohol related offenses is one of our specialty areas of practice, our attorneys are in an ideal position to look at your predicament with empathy and understanding. At Angel, Coil & Bartlett, we are committed to treating you with the respect and dignity that you deserve and look forward to serving you in your time of need.

If you are accused of committing the offense of Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence in Montana, contact our firm to speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys. Angel, Coil & Bartlett is comprised of a dedicated team of Montana trial lawyers committed to protecting your constitutional and legal rights and helping you navigate the Montana criminal justice system.

Call us today for a free telephone consultation with one of our attorneys and an appointment with our firm.