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DWI in North Carolina and 24/7 Sobriety

There are numerous “monitoring” options available for courts and Judges to impose upon people convicted of DWIs in North Carolina.  At this point, North Carolina DWI laws require the installation of an ignition interlock following a DWI conviction in several instances, including if you blow higher than .14, or if you have a prior DWI conviction in the past 7 years.  In addition, N.C. law continues to increase a Judge’s authorization to require use of a CAM (continuous alcohol monitor), as explained here.

Several states, including South Dakota and Montana, have adopted a new type of program called 24/7 Sobriety.  Basically, every person convicted of a DWI is required to go to a facility and take a breath test twice per day.  If the person fails the test, the person goes to jail.  Now apparently Florida is considering it, too.  But would it work in North Carolina?

I have a number of observations about this program.

First, it is important to note that this is simply another product for a private vendor to sell to either the State or the person convicted, so it is important to remember that this is big business for several companies.

Second, the 24/7 Sobriety program is geared toward everyone convicted of a DWI.  However, numerous studies, and my experience, indicate that most first time offenders don’t need additional help in learning their lesson.  If this program were geared only toward repeat offenders I would have less concern about it. 

Third, the program has nothing to do with driving, like ignition interlock does.  A participant has to show up twice a day and blow, even if they don’t plan to drive and even if they don’t own or have access to a vehicle.  That seems to me to be big government overkill. 

Fourth, if a participant fails a breath test, the person goes to jail.  Well, North Carolina is doing almost everything it can to lessen the burden on our jails and prisons because of overcrowding and underfunding. I don’t see how/why we would want to send a non-driving person who fails a breath test directly to jail. 

Fifth, and finally, at least here in Northeastern North Carolina, we have a very rural and wide judicial footprint, and no real public transportation, and it would pose a fairly significant travel burden to require a person, who typically has lost his/her driver’s license because of the DWI conviction, to travel twice per day to a facility, which could be more than 30 minutes away in order to take a breath test. Under the program, no-shows are taken directly to jail, and I have a feeling there would be quite a few of those in this area simply due to transportation issues.

So, while there may be some legitimate and beneficial applications of the 24/7 Sobriety program in Northeastern North Carolina, it would require quite a bit of tweaking before I think its effectiveness would outweigh the concerns.

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