Two Butte men with nine previous DUI convictions face their 10th felony charge and now face more severe penalties under enhanced penalties passed by the Montana Legislature last year.
They previously faced a maximum of five years in prison or the Montana Department of Corrections, but that is now the minimum and 25 years the maximum.
Wallace Arney, 62, and Scott Anthony Lamb, 63, were arraigned Thursday and pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as a fourth or subsequent offense. Lamb also pleaded not guilty to criminal endangerment.
District Judge Kurt Krueger accepted the request and scheduled the next hearing for December 15. Lamb had previously posted bail, but Arnie remained jailed on $100,000 bond.
The Legislature passed a bill to increase penalties for fifth and subsequent convictions during the 2021 legislative session, and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed it into law.
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The fifth now carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, the sixth is punishable by up to 25 years, and the seventh or more carries a mandatory five-year term that cannot be suspended, with the possibility of up to another 20 years. Five or more convictions also carry mandatory fines of $5,000 to $10,000.
Ann Shea, Butte-Silver Bow County State’s Attorney, said Thursday that she was pleased the Legislature increased the potential penalties, calling it a matter of public safety.
She noted that the previous maximum of five years did not mean that these offenders would serve that much. These decisions are made by the Montana Department of Corrections, and many criminals serve nothing of the sort.
The law came into effect on January 1, which means that people who are in a state of alcohol intoxication after that date and in the future are subject to more severe punishment.
Lamb was last arrested on September 22, and Arnie was detained on October 4.
According to prosecutors, Arnie was walking into the Town Pump in Butte asking for someone to jump in his truck and was reportedly intoxicated and angry. A police officer arrived in the parking lot and Arnie got out of his truck.
The cop said he saw a bottle of vodka in the truck and after checking with the dispatcher told Arnie he had nine previous incidents. Arnie admitted he had been drinking and when asked how much he said “too much”.
He was arrested and registered with a blood alcohol level of 0.212. Driving while intoxicated is considered a level 0.08.
Lamb was arrested after an A-1 Ambulance driver called police to say he was following a driver in a Ford Ranger who nearly collided head-on with two cars while driving south on Rowe Road the night of Sept. 22.
An officer spotted a pickup truck with its lights on in a driveway on Gaylord Street with Lamb driving, according to filings. A check of his driving record revealed that he had nine prior convictions in various states.
He was booked on another alleged DUI stop, and prosecutors also charged him with felony reckless endangerment for nearly hitting two other drivers. This is punishable by up to 10 years and a fine of up to $50,000.