The program aims at reducing alcohol-related crimes by testing people convicted of such offenses twice a day. It should be in place by the end of the year or the first part of 2015, according to J. Michael “Mike” Reed, the impaired driving …
Wyoming’s 24/7 sobriety program will be rolled out in the next few days for the public to examine and comment on, according to an aide to Gov. Matt Mead.
The program aims at reducing alcohol-related crimes by testing people convicted of such offenses twice a day. It should be in place by the end of the year or the first part of 2015, according to J. Michael “Mike” Reed, the impaired driving policy analyst who works in the governor’s policy office.
Senate File 31 created the program passed during the 2014 session and Gov. Mead signed it into law. But Reed said it was not immediately implemented.
Reed said police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges and the general public can offer input and recommend any changes or improvements.
“We’ll make it as available as we possibly can,” he said during a follow-up phone interview Friday.
The program will be launched in a deliberate fashion, Reed said, and drug testing may be added at some later date. But it will give judges a “sentencing tool” to use for people convicted of second-offense drunken driving, additional DUI convictions or more serious crimes “that have an alcohol nexus, or any other crime that has that attachment or connection to alcohol,” he said.
The judge sentences people into the program, but the program sets the times. It is optional in pre-trial settings but could be mandatory in post-trial sentencing.
The 24/7 sobriety program was created in South Dakota in January 2005 and has been successful in reducing repeat alcohol-related offenses, Reed said. That caught Wyoming’s eye.
Powell City Councilman Myron Heny was enthusiastic about the program after taking part in a discussion on it at a Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) meeting two weeks ago. During the Oct. 7 council meeting, Heny said the 24/7 program may well reduce alcohol-related crimes in the state.
Ginger Newman, WAM’s director of communications and training, said South Dakota has experienced a 50 percent reduction in repeat offenders and expanded the use of 24/7 to include all alcohol-related issues, including domestic violence.
“All costs are paid for by the offenders, and there are savings to counties and municipalities from reduction in jail expenses,” Newman said. “One key finding is, immediate accountability equates to immediacy of the punishment.”
“A Rand Corporation study said the strongest part of this program is the immediacy of responsibility,” Reed said. “There has to be that immediate responsibility. Otherwise, the program loses that effect.”
The program will be paid for by charging $2 per test, which equates to $4 per day, since people will be tested twice daily, about 12 hours apart, seven days a week.
“There are other options for people who can show an undue burden or if drugs are involved,” Reed said. “An alcohol-monitoring bracelet (SCRAM) can be used, but it is a more expensive option for the user.
“That’s the way we’re setting it up,” Reed said. “We’ll take a look at the program on a monthly basis or an annual basis. In South Dakota, they’re having enough funding coming from this to replace equipment or upgrade it. This is common equipment that is used in law enforcement agencies across the state.”
It’s a relatively simple test that can be performed in a minute or so. Once a person passes, they are free to go.
However if they fail the test, they would immediately be taken into custody. If they do not show up, or somehow flee after testing positive for alcohol, a warrant is issued for their arrest. Reed said when he observed testing in South Dakota, people who failed the test sat down and awaited being taken into custody.
The Wyoming law allows counties to opt-in or opt-out of the 24/7 program.
“There is an option. I certainly hope they do,” Reed said. “There’s been a lot of interest expressed in it.
“The law states that each sheriff can operate a 24/7 program or designate another authority to perform that duty,” he said. “The decision will most likely be made as a partnership between the court system, county officials and law enforcement. Once that partnership is created, then municipalities could also utilize the sentencing guidelines of the program.”
The goal is to keep drinking drivers off the road, Reed said, along with reducing other crimes tied to the bottle.