At around 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday, a Missoula County Sheriff’s Office deputy was travelling northbound on Highway 93. As he passed the intersection of Miller Creek Road and Highway 93, he observed a vehicle drifting within its lane from side to side. At one point, the vehicle came to a complete stop at a green light and didn’t start driving again until after several seconds had passed.

The deputy initiated a traffic stop and made contact with the driver who was identified as 40-year-old Justin Branch. Branch’s eyes were red, bloodshot, and watery. Branch also slurred his speech. Branch explained that he stopped at the green light because he “spaced out.” Branch stated he does not have a driver’s license and his driving record shows that his driver’s license is revoked.

During the traffic stop, the deputy observed an infant child in the backseat of Branch’s vehicle. Branch admitted to consuming “two Crown and cokes and a couple of Coronas.” He also agreed to perform the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, which he was unable to finish.

Branch’s parents retrieved his child and vehicle, and the deputy transported Branch to jail. During the ride, Branch fell asleep in the patrol car. At the jail, Branch agreed to provide a breath sample and his BAC was .175. Branch appeared in Missoula Justice Court Thursday afternoon and Deputy County Attorney Brandon Zeak provided the following statement.

“The defendant has two felony convictions and was on probation for a felony DUI he received in 2019,” Zeak said. “His criminal history is 46 pages long. The defendant was presumptively aware that he was not supposed to be driving on a revoked license and did so anyway, putting other motorists and his child at risk. The state’s position is that he cannot follow court imposed conditions in the community and should not be released on his own recognizance so that he can continue to put other lives at risk.”

The state requested bail be set at $15,000 and Judge Johnna Sutton imposed a $10,000 bond with continuous alcohol monitoring. The deputy reviewed Branch’s driving history and determined that he has four previous DUI convictions. Branch was charged with felony DUI, felony criminal endangerment, and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

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