(Gillette, Wyo.) The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has begun implementing a new DUI sobriety program, designed to cut back the number of repeat DUI offenders and the costs of testing subsequent offenders.
Jail time is still mandatory, initially. Under the old program, someone facing DUI charges after a night out would spend the rest of that night in jail. That hasn’t changed. It’s what happens after a DUI sentence is passed, during the following probationary term in which changes may be made, says CCSO Lt. Kevin Theis and Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.
From 24-hour window to 12-hour window
Under the old DUI program, someone convicted of a DUI would have had to report to the sheriff’s office to undergo a breathe test every 24 hours. This was not efficient according to Theis.
According to Theis, evidence of alcohol use in the body can dissipate immensely in a 24-hour window, which resulted in many offenders attempting to faux the system by spacing out their alcohol consumption across 24 hours.
“It would allow them, obviously, time to consume alcohol and abuse that system,” Theis said.
The new program requires DUI violators to report to the sheriff’s office twice a day, effectively every 12 hours, which would reduce the likelihood of system abuse.
Ramifications of failing
Should someone have alcohol in their system and fail the initial breathe test, they will be given the opportunity to take another test 15 minutes later.
Should they fail that test too, “…the program has pretty quick ramifications,” Theis stated. Offenders will be taken immediately to detention, usually for a 24-hour period, until they can appear before a judge for a bond violation.
The judge will decide if the offender can remain on the program and return to the streets, or be confined until his sentencing.
Missing a required test will also be considered a failure. DUI offenders must ensure they arrive at their pre-scheduled time. Though Reynolds and Theis did say there would be a slight leniency given for road closures during bad weather.
“In the long run, it should save the tax payers money,” Reynolds explained. Once DUI offenders make their first appearance, or arraignment, their actual court date for sentencing could be six months to a year away.
With those on the program being allowed to return to the streets, the CCSO is not paying to have them housed in that period while they wait for sentencing.
Bringing on new personnel
Under the old DUI program, testing was administered by detention officers which created a bit of a staffing problem for the sheriff’s office.
“They [detention officers] have to stop what they’re doing and send somebody to do the PBT tests at random times throughout the day,” Theis explained.
The new program nullifies that issue by providing standardized times for individuals to come in during pre-scheduled time slots.
Detention officers will no longer be administering breath tests either. Instead, that responsibility will fall on part-time “interns,” recruited from the ranks of retired officers or college students.
Interns will be subjected to the same extensive background, personal history statement, and polygraph testing that a typical law enforcement officer must go through, said Reynolds. With the exception of the physical fitness and medical tests.
Interns will only require minimal law enforcement training.
The PBT and mouth swabs do not require a sworn officer to be the one administering them, or even a highly trained officer, Theis said.
Interns will not be conducting urinalysis testing, that duty will remain the responsibility of sworn detention officers.
High success rate
The program has a pretty high projected success rate, based on the original program results in South Dakota where it originated.
According to Theis and Reynolds, the program is more demanding as offenders have to buy into the program by paying for each test out of their own pocket.
Additionally, candidates for the program must meet certain court requirements before they can be placed on the DUI sobriety program.
Combined with allowing DUI offenders to remain with their families and giving them the opportunity to continue working to pay for the tests, the success rate is expected to be pretty high.