Lawmakers are always looking to strengthen DWI laws in order to further discourage drugged and drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. In November of 2013, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) presented a feasibility study looking at whether or not 24/7 sobriety programs should be instituted for repeat DWI offenders. The study states that drivers with prior DWI convictions carry a "higher risk of future DUI arrest as well as involvement in both alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related crashes.”
Some believe that the only way to stop repeat DWI offenders is to ensure that they abstain from using alcohol completely. The report identifies six methods for sobriety monitoring that are currently used in The United States. They are as follows:
- Unannounced visits by probation officers to the offender's home to obtain breath tests and verify sobriety;
- Randomized requirements to report for BAC testing where the offender must call in every day and determine whether on that day, he or she will need to report for testing;
- Home confinement with scheduled or random BAC testing;
- Transdermal alcohol-monitoring devices, such as ankle bracelets, that measure offenders' BAC hourly;
- An ignition interlock device to test the offender who, in addition to blowing into the unit whenever starting the vehicle, must also blow at times while operating the vehicle; and
- Small portable photo-breath-test units that can require the offenders to provide several tests during the day to ensure abstinence.
Currently, New Hampshire utilizes only the fifth method which requires repeat DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock device as a condition of license reinstatement. While this has been proven as a way to effectively cut down on the DWI recidivism, several states including North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming have instituted a different kind of policy that works to make sure offenders are not consuming alcohol at all. A 24/7 alcohol monitoring program requires offenders to report every 12 hours to a police station in order to have a breath test performed. Instead of serving time in jail or facing house arrest, offenders must report twice daily to have their BAC measured. If they are found to have consumed alcohol, they will be immediately incarcerated.
Offenders who do not wish to present twice daily for testing can choose to pay for a TAM device which is an alcohol monitoring bracelet that must be worn at all times. This device is more expensive than reporting, costing the offender about $5-$10 per day.
Although, there is the obvious drawback that offenders must physically present themselves twice a day for testing, the following benefits are what make it an interesting concept to deter repeat DWI offenders:
- It does not require law-enforcement to spend money on any new type of test equipment
- It is low cost (only about $1 to $4 per day) which is paid by the offender
- It reduces jail costs by allowing offenders to avoid serving time
- It can be used as a penalty for all alcohol offenders not just those involved in DWI crimes
- It can be used as a condition of bond so that monitoring can begin as soon as a suspect is arrested
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the program is being reduction in recidivism rates for repeat DWI offenders. The report mentioned a study that was done which found that the 24 /7sobriety program led to a 74% reduction in recidivism after 3 years for offenders with two prior convictions and a 44% reduction in offenders with three prior convictions.
The biggest issue that the NHTSA found is that these programs are only being used in rural settings. In response to this, a report was done to see if the 24/7 monitoring program was feasible for use in more areas including urban settings. The study found that, even though there were many benefits to the program, officials in urban settings were unsure of its viability. Still, it was not ruled out as a possible option in the future.
This type of program that requires DWI offenders to be constantly monitored is not being used in New Hampshire as of today, but studies like this that show an interest in adapting these programs suggest that they could become part of DWI sentencing in the future. If groups like NTHSA feel that this is an effective policy, lawmakers will be more likely to consider legislation to adapt its use. If you have been arrested for DWI in New Hampshire and would like to know more about the penalties you face, contact an attorney right now.