24/7 program provides daily alcohol monitoringA program to be implemented in the southwest region of the state Aug. 1 will have those caught drinking and driving submit to constant monitoring. Officers from the eight southwest counties finish training for the change in procedures today.
A program to be implemented in the southwest region of the state Aug. 1 will have those caught drinking and driving submit to constant monitoring. Officers from the eight southwest counties finish training for the change in procedures today.
The “24/7” program has been adopted across the state with ours being the last region to come on board, said Wayne Stenehjem, attorney general.
The program originally launched in South Dakota and can be used for other alcohol or drug-related offenses, but is aimed at those who drink and drive, he added.
Anyone who has a second or subsequent driving under the influence arrest when the program is in effect must take two breath tests a day, seven days a week as a condition of bond, Stenehjem said.
“If there’s no alcohol on their breath, then away they go and it takes four or five seconds,” Stenehjem said. “But if they’re in violation, they’re immediately taken into custody, they’re taken to jail and they sit there at least over night, until they can go back to the judge.”
Clarence Tuhy, Stark County sheriff, said he thinks it’s a good program, but wonders how the added responsibility will impact the department, since they will be administering the breath tests.
“It’s going to involve manpower and added responsibilities and added workload to the already heavy workload we have,” Tuhy said. “It’s going to take some guys off the street for some time, but it depends on how busy we get.”
However, he is glad the $2 a day fee defendants pay to get tested stays with the Sheriff’s Department. The money must be used for operation of the program, Stenehjem said.
Part-time staff can be hired to administer the testing using the fees.
Stenehjem pushed for the program because of the state’s drinking issues, he said.
“North Dakota is the safest state in the country when it comes to homicide, aggravated assault, any of those serious offenses,” Stenehjem said. “At the other end of the scale, we are the worst when it comes to driving under the influence.”
It will not always be possible for people to get to the testing site twice a day, but those who can’t are not off the hook. An ankle bracelet that monitors the alcohol and drug content of the wearer’s perspiration will be administered in that situation, Stenehjem said.
The test results of the bracelet are monitored electronically and it can tell if the wearer has tampered with it, he added.
The person who wears it must pay $25 to hook up the service, $25 to stop the service and $5 a day, Stenehjem said.
Each bracelet costs $1,200, and tax dollars funded 100 of them, he added.
Kelly Serr, sheriff of Perkins County in South Dakota, said his department rarely administers breath tests.
“Because we’re very small and rural, we don’t have a lot of people on the program,” Serr said. “Occasionally we might have one or two.”
Bracelets are almost always administered in Perkins County, he said.
“I think it’s a useful tool,” Serr said. “What little bit of participants we’ve had in the program have been successful for us. I’ve seen good things come out of it.”
Stenehjem said other states are looking into implementing the program as well.
“I think this is something that will sweep the nation,” Stenehjem said. “I think this is something that we’re on the ground floor of something that can really help.”