HELENA — A pilot program that requires repeat drunk driving offenders to undergo twice-daily breath tests is successful in keeping them sober while keeping them out of jail, Helena-area law enforcement officers said.
The 24/7 Sobriety Program has administered about 5,000 breath tests in Lewis and Clark County since it began in May, with 22 of those failing, the Independent Record reports.
Program takes effect after second DUi
Under the program, those arrested for a second or subsequent DUI who post bond are required to submit a breath test twice daily or wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet. If an offender tests positive for drinking alcohol or does not show up for a test, the offender's bond is revoked.
The offenders pay the $4 per day cost of the breath tests or the $6 daily cost of an alcohol-monitoring bracelet.
"The nice thing about this and why we set up the pilot is that it is a low-cost solution to an issues in all of our communities," said Attorney General Steve Bullock.
Bullock will propose legislation
Bullock said his staff is working on legislation to implement the program statewide.
The Lewis and Clark County program has 28 participants and 26 have completed the program.
The program's main goals of reducing the inmate population and reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road are being met, Sheriff Leo Dutton said.
"It is designed to change behaviors," he said. "It impacts them twice a day."
7th DUI force him to move
William Greene, 59, who was arrested for his seventh DUI in August, said he had to move into the city limits to meet the testing requirements. DUI offenders often have their driver's licenses taken away, and it can be difficult finding a ride to a testing facility twice a day.
He said the $4 daily cost adds up quickly when you look at it as $120 a month. Dutton notes it costs $100 a day to house an inmate at the county jail.
Helena Municipal Court Judge Bob Wood said he was a bit skeptical of the program when it was first introduced because he was concerned it might infringe on due process rights. But he says he's now a fan.
"The more you fail, the harder we're going to make it on you or the harder you're making this on yourself," he said.
Helena Police Chief Troy McGee said he thinks the program is beneficial, but argues it's too soon to tell if it has impacted the number of DUIs.
The 24/7 concept began in South Dakota as a pilot project in 2005 and has since gone statewide.