Each state has different DUI laws and penalties. However, the DUI laws of all states are aimed at reducing recidivism and ensuring public safety. In other words, the goal is to, one way or another, cut down on the number of drunk drivers on the roadways.
The DUI laws of some states focus heavily on punitive measures. But other states have sought to address the problem through sobriety monitoring and a more rehabilitative approach. Along these lines, many states now have 24/7 sobriety programs.
This article outlines how 24/7 sobriety programs work and their most common components and requirements. The article also explains how successful completion of one of these programs can often reduce or eliminate the consequences of a DUI offense.
Sobriety monitoring is the centerpiece of all 24/7 programs. However, there are several different ways that programs use to ensure participants are staying clean and sober. In some cases, it might be the judge who decides the specific type of monitoring. In other situations, the laws of the state might dictate how program participants are monitored.
Depending on the circumstances, the period of monitored sobriety can be weeks, months, or even years.
Secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring (SCRAM) bracelets monitor the wearer's blood alcohol content (BAC) 24 hours a day. When the body metabolizes alcohol, a small amount is secreted from skin pores. Once the alcohol evaporates through the skin, a fuel cell in the SCRAM device measures the amount of ethanol gas within the insensible perspiration.
When a SCRAM bracelet detects alcohol, it sends a signal and report to the monitoring agency. SCRAM bracelets also notify the monitoring agency if the wearer tampers with or tries to remove the device.
Although SCRAM bracelets are effective alcohol monitoring devices, they also have some drawbacks. Because SCRAMs detect only alcohol, they might not be the best testing option for program participants with a history of drug use. Also, SCRAM monitoring is expensive, and it's usually program participants who have to foot the bill.
Some 24/7 programs use traditional in-person testing methods. With this type of monitoring, program participants are generally required to come to the police station or another testing site to take a breath and/or urine test.
Some programs require participants to test once or twice daily. Other programs use random testing. With random testing, program participants don't know ahead of time which days they'll need to test. But when participants are called to test, they usually must do so the same day.
On-site testing gives programs an effective way to ensure participants are staying clean and sober. However, to be a workable monitoring method, there needs to be at least one testing site that's readily accessible to program participants. So, in rural areas, on-site testing might not be the best option.
In cases where drugs rather than alcohol are the main concern, drug test patches can be a good option. These patches are generally placed on the wearer's arm like a sticker or bandage. Just like with alcohol, as the body metabolizes drugs, a small amount comes out in the person's sweat. Drug test patches soak up sweat and effectively collect a sample.
After wearing a patch for a week or two, the wearer goes to a testing site where the patch is removed and sent off to a lab for testing. The test results will show if any drug metabolites are present. Drug test patches are good for determining what substances, if any, the wearer has used, but they don't provide information about the precise amounts of drugs present.
Many 24/7 programs require participants to install and maintain ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in their vehicles. An ignition interlock device is a compact breathalyzer that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver's BAC is above a certain level.
While an IID does not provide constant monitoring, many sobriety programs require an IID to prevent impaired driving.
Generally, 24/7 programs require more than just testing. Although frequent testing and all the other requirements may seem daunting, participation in a 24/7 sobriety program also has its benefits.
Most 24/7 sobriety programs are ordered by the court as a condition of probation. Rather than spending months or years in jail, the offender will be required to complete a period of probation. Probation is typically a year or more. During this time, the offender must comply with all probation requirements, including 24/7 sobriety monitoring.
Failure to comply with the conditions of probation can result in probation revocation, termination from the 24/7 program, and jail time.
A DUI will almost always lead to at least some period of license suspension. However, participants in 24/7 sobriety programs may be eligible for a restricted license. With a restricted license, you can drive during a DUI suspension but generally just do so with an IID.
In some states, participants in 24/7 programs will serve a shorter suspension period than they otherwise would for a DUI conviction.
Almost all 24/7 programs require participants to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation to determine the presence and extent of any chemical dependency issues. Generally, the results will include a recommended treatment plan. Often, this plan will include monitored sobriety.
In most cases, the judge will order the DUI offender to complete the recommended treatment as part of probation.
Again, failure to comply with monitored sobriety or treatment program requirements can result in jail or other penalties.
24/7 sobriety programs are typically optional, and for some people, these programs might not be a great fit. If you are facing DUI charges, you should talk to an attorney about whether a 24/7 sobriety monitoring program might be a good option for you.