BILLINGS — A Billings man with eight prior drunken-driving convictions received the maximum standard sentence for his ninth offense at a sentencing hearing Thursday.
Yellowstone County District Judge Susan Watters ordered James Alan Tate to serve 13 months in state custody, followed by five years of probation, for felony DUI.
The judge also imposed a $5,000 fine and recommended Tate for a state alcohol treatment program.
Tate, 51, was ordered to serve concurrent six-month jail sentences for misdemeanor counts of driving without a valid license and driving without insurance.
Despite the number of DUI convictions on Tate's record, the latest offense was his first felony. Several of Tate's prior DUI offenses happened in other states, including Wyoming, South Dakota and Oregon, a prosecutor said.
In Montana, a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction carries a maximum penalty of 13 months in state custody, followed by five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
For repeat felony DUI offenders, Montana judges can increase the punishment only if a defendant is declared a persistent felony offender. The designation carries a sentence enhancement of between five and 100 years.
Tate apologized Thursday, telling the judge he had tried to get help for his alcoholism just before his most recent arrest.
"I'm old enough now I should know better," he said.
"Well, maybe you've come to a place in your life, Mr. Tate, where you'll be able to address your issues once and for all," the judge said.
The judge also ordered Tate to participate in the 18-month Impaired Driving Court program once he is released from state custody.
A preliminary breath test showed Tate had a blood-alcohol level of 0.361 percent -- more than four times the legal limit of 0.08 -- last Oct. 10 when an officer stopped his car on South 28th Street for having a broken taillight.