Drinking and driving is a growing problem which has sparked a lot of discussions about the consequences. One thing most people agree on is that something needs to be done to decrees the frequency of DWIs. South Dakota has done just that with its 24/7 Sobriety Method.

The program was designed for repeated DWI offenders. Since its implementation in South Dakota many other states have followed suit.

According to the Summary Report “Participants in the 24/7 Sobriety Project have been arrested for DUI offenses on multiple occasions. The program utilizes a variety of mechanisms to ensure abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, including twice-daily breath testing for alcohol, SCRAM ankle bracelets that continuously monitor wearers for alcohol consumption, drug patches that collect sweat samples for laboratory drug testing, and urine testing for drugs.”

DWI offenders

When the program was first implemented back in 2005, South Dakota had one of the highest DWI rates in the country.  By 2007 traffic deaths that were related to Alcohol had decreased by 33 percent.

According to South Dakota’s Office of the District Attorney, from the start of the program up to December 1, 20015, it had pass rate of 99.1 percent.

How Does it Work?

The 24/7 Sobriety Method is used as a condition for making bond, probation, parole, driver’s license reinstatement and a variety of other court conditions.

When someone has been convicted for or charged with more than one DWI he or she can be ordered to participated in the program as a part of bail or sentenced to participate instead of going to jail.

 He or she will have to go to the sheriff’s office and take breathalyzer tests two times a day. The tests are done 12 hours apart, one in the morning and one at night.

247 Sobriety

Also as a part of the program he or she might have to wear an alcohol monitoring ankle bracelet called a Secure Continuous Alcohol Remote Monitor or SCRAM. The ankle bracelet continually monitors alcohol consumption and gives a daily remote electronic report to law enforcement.

According to Don White, vice president of Field Operations for Alcohol Monitoring Systems “It’s (testing) the sweat, because 1 percent of what you drink comes out of your skin and attaches to sweat, so that’s what we monitor. It’s almost like a breathalyzer on your ankle. It’s a lot more sensitive than a breathalyzer, but it’s the same technology.”

Someone who is in the program might also be required to take a urinalysis once a week, or wear a patch that monitors his or her drug use and install an ignition interlock.

If participants skip a test, a warrant will be put out for their arrest, if they fail a test they are immediately arrested and will spend 1-2 days in jail. Also for failing, their bond, parole or probation can be revoked.

What Does it Cost?

With all of the testing it’s only natural that people will be curious as to what the cost is behind this program and better yet, who is paying for it?

The participants themselves cover the costs of all of the tests, it breaks down to $2 a day for the breathalyzer, $10 per urinalysis, $40 to activate SCRAM with a $6 daily monitoring few and $40 per drug patch.

According to the Summery Report the jail populations in two of South Dakota’s largest counties has gone down by approximately “100 people on any given day.”

It’s estimated that jail costs $75 per day per person so the state is saving millions of dollars through this program while it’s not spending anything on the testing.

The Opposition

Federal Law states a percentage of highway safety money can only go to states that make everyone who is convicted for drunk driving for the first time install ignition interlocks. Supporters of the 27/7 Sobriety Method believe that states implementing their method should be eligible for this money as well.

However not everyone feels that way.

“We don’t want states doing all-offender interlocks and think that a 24/7 program is equal to it. It’s not,” says J.T. Griffin, MADD’s chief government affairs officer. “24/7 is much more geared toward the third-time, multiple drunk driver. Ignition interlocks for all offenders is geared toward the big picture of dealing with drunk driving and really bringing down the numbers of deaths and injuries because of drunk driving.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of all offenders that are ordered to install the interlock, only 15-20 percent actually get the device installed.

The offenders that do often revert to drunk driving when the interlocks are removed, said Anastasia Swearingen, who is in support of the 24/7 Method and is the director of government affairs for the American Beverage Institutes “We need a policy option that is actually going to stop people from drinking and driving.”

An independent study released in 2013 by the RAND Corp., found that South Dakota’s program cut the rate of repeat DWIs at the county level by 12 percent.

“These are large reductions when you consider that we’re talking about the community level,” said Beau Kilmer, who conducted the study.

Taking it to the Supreme Court

A Montana driver challenged the constitutionality of the 24/7 Sobriety Method claiming that the twice a day breathalyzers where illegal searches in violation of the fourth amendment.

According to the Synopsis of the case Robert Spady, the driver also claimed “… the fees unfairly punished the defendant prior to being convicted of the charged crime.”

The Montana Supreme Court ruled, “that requiring individuals accused, but not convicted of, repeat drunk driving offenses to submit to daily breath tests and pay the associated fees does not violate their due process rights and is not pretrial punishment in violation of the Constitution.”

While the Supreme court ruled that it can be a condition of bond, it affirmed that the judges need to conduct individual assessments to determine if it is the right choice for the individual and if the cost is reasonable for him or her to pay.

In regard to the breathalyzers violating the fourth amendment the Supreme court ruled “the breath test is a search, but is reasonable because of a pretrial defendant’s diminished expectation of privacy. The Court held that the tests are not unreasonable if a determination is made by the court that the program is appropriate for that defendant given the nature of the charges against him.”