The Missoula County Attorney’s Office files driving under the influence cases on a weekly basis and some of those are charged as felonies. In Montana, a fourth or subsequent DUI offense is a felony. Deputy County Attorney Matt Jennings explains.

“There is a big difference between repeat offenders and a person that makes a mistake, maybe having too many and getting in the car,” Jennings said. “We really like to focus our attention on these repeat offenders. They are people that have a serious substance use disorder. They are people that can’t stop from getting behind the wheel and causing a danger to others.”

If someone does get convicted of a felony DUI, Jennings says they get put in a treatment program that is run by the Montana Department of Corrections.

“Most often, that program is called WATCh,” Jennings said. “It can take up to 13 months to go through that program. Most people complete it, I believe, in about nine months. It is an inpatient, high intensity, alcohol and substance use addiction treatment facility.”

If they complete that program, Jennings says they get put on probation.

“That means they have to periodically check in with a probation officer,” Jennings said. “They have to continue to get testing. They have to show that they are trying to find work and a place to live. They are monitored. Unfortunately, some of those people do relapse and they start drinking again. We do what we can and law enforcement does what they can, but we certainly have some repeat offenders in the state of Montana. They concern us all, they pose an enormous risk to the public and it is something we need to do more about.”

In Missoula last week, five separate individuals were charged with felony DUI. In addition, two people were arrested for felony DUI this past weekend.