Could the Future of New Hampshire DWIs Include 24/7 Sobriety Monitoring?
Lawmakers are always searching for new methods of strengthening New Hampshire’s DWI laws in an effort to continue discouraging drunk and drugged motorists from getting behind the wheel of an automobile. In November of 2013, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) introduced a feasibility study that examined whether or not 24/7 sobriety monitoring programs should be required for repeat DWI offenders. The study stated that motorists with prior DUI and DWI convictions carried a significantly higher risk of future DWI arrest, in addition to involvement in both non-alcohol and alcohol related collisions.
A growing number of advocates believe that the only method for stopping repeat offenders is to ensure that they are abstaining completely from the use of alcohol. The NHTSA’s report identified six different methods for continual sobriety monitoring that are currently utilized throughout the United States. These methods are listed as follows:
1. Unannounced, random visits by probation and parole officers to the DWI offender’s place of residence to conduct Breathalyzer tests for the purpose of verifying sobriety.
2. Random requirements to report for blood alcohol content (BAC) testing wherein the offender is required to call in each day and ascertain whether he or she, on that specific day, is required to report for random testing.
3. Home confinement accompanied by random or scheduled BAC testing.
4. The required use of transdermal alcohol monitoring devices, like ankle bracelets, that measure an offender’s BAC levels on an hourly basis.
5. The required installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in the offender’s vehicle that requires the offender to blow into the unit before allowing the automobile to start. Furthermore, the use of the IID requires the offender to periodically blow into the device while the vehicle is in operation.
6. Portable, small photo breath test devices which require an offender to provide multiple tests at random intervals throughout the day in an effort to ensure abstinence.
Currently, within the state of New Hampshire, only the fifth method is utilized on a regular basis. Repeat DWI offenders are required to have an ignition interlock device installed in any automobile they drive as a condition for having their driver’s license reinstated. This method alone has proven to be fairly effective in reducing the rates of DWI recidivism; however, a growing number of other states, which include Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota, have implemented a different type of policy which is designed to ensure that repeat offenders are abstaining from the use of alcohol altogether. The 24/7 sobriety monitoring programs implemented by these states require a repeat offender to report to the closest police station once every 12 hours to have an official Breathalyzer test conducted by an officer. The requirement to report twice daily to have their BAC levels measured enables the repeat offender to avoid home confinement or having to serve a jail sentence. If the offender is determined to have consumed alcohol, then he or she is immediately incarcerated.
If the offender cannot, or does not wish to, present themselves twice daily for BAC testing, then they have the option of paying for a TAM device. A TAM device is a type of alcohol monitoring bracelet, which must be worn 24/7. The downside to this option is that it is more expensive than reporting for BAC testing. On average, it will cost an offender between $5.00 and $10.00 each day.
Although the notion of presenting themselves twice daily for BAC testing is inconvenient, there are several associated benefits that make it an interesting and viable alternative concept to deter repeat offenders:
§ Law enforcement agencies are not required to spend valuable money and resources on new or additional testing equipment.
§ The average cost for twice daily BAC testing is only $1.00 to $4.00 each day, which is paid for by the offender.
§ By enabling repeat offenders to avoid serving jail time, jail costs are significantly reduced.
§ It can be utilized as an alternative penalty for all offenders convicted of alcohol related crimes, or as a condition of probation for any conviction, not just those who are convicted of DWI offenses.
§ It can be utilized as a condition of bond, and monitoring can begin immediately after a suspect has been arrested.
Perhaps the primary benefit of this innovative program is the reduction in recidivism rates it has created for multiple DWI offenders. The NHTSA’s report mentioned another similar study that was conducted in which it was discovered that the 24/7 sobriety monitoring program created a 74% reduction rate in recidivism after a period of three years for repeat offenders who had two or more prior convictions. Likewise, for repeat offenders who had three or more prior convictions, the recidivism rate was approximately 44%.
The primary issue that the NHTSA discovered with these types of programs is that they are only currently being utilized in rural settings. To address this issue, a report was conducted to determine if a 24/7 sobriety monitoring program could be feasibly used in more urban settings. The study concluded that, despite the fact that the programs offered multiple benefits, officials located in urban settings were unsure if such programs were actually viable. However, at the same time, none of these officials ruled out the use of such programs as a possible option for the future.
As of today, New Hampshire does not use any sort of program that requires repeat DWI offenders to be continually monitored, but the aforementioned studies show that there is an interest in adapting such programs, which suggests that they could become a future element of DWI sentencing. If advocacy groups, like the NHTSA, believe that these policies are effective, New Hampshire lawmakers will be considerably more likely to consider legislation that would adapt their use. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a DWI in our state and would like to obtain more information about the penalties and sanctions you face, then please contact one of our experienced and skilled New Hampshire DWI attorneys today. Your initial consultation is free.