New South Dakota DUI Law Will Bring Landmark 24/7 Sobriety Program throughout the State
By: Chris Kramer
After having success with a pilot 24/7 sobriety program in various counties, South Dakota has become the first state to enact a law allowing convicted DUI offenders to drive upon agreeing to completely abstain from alcohol and undergo breath tests twice a day.
The South Dakota Legislature granted final approval to HB1072 in late February, and Governor Mike Rounds signed it into law on March 6th. This South Dakota DUI law will expand the two-year 24/7 pilot program to every county in the state with an appropriation of $345,000, according to an Associated Press story.
So How Does this South Dakota 24/7 Sobriety Program Work?
Upon being convicted of a South Dakota DUI, an offender has the option of accepting this program. By agreeing to totally abstain from alcohol, a convicted person will be allowed to drive.
However, this trade-off is not that easy for South Dakota DUI offenders, whom must take a breathalyzer test at a local sheriff's office in the morning and the evening every day. If a "preponderance of evidence" suggests that a person had consumed alcohol or wine, that person will not only lose his or her license but also be sent to jail.
Chief Deputy Dave Bramblee of the Pennington County Sheriff's Office recently said in a story in The Rapid City Journal that it is an honor for convicted DUI offenders to be in this program because the alternative for them is going to jail.
The Associated Press story detailed that South Dakota DUI offenders in the program have to pay $2 a day for breath testing. Most participants remain in the program for about four months.
Early Results from this Pilot South Dakota 24/7 Sobriety Program Proved Promising!
This South Dakota 24/7 sobriety program was implemented in 14 of the state's 66 counties with more than 1,000 chronic drunken drivers, or people who were arrested at least twice on suspicion of drunk driving, taking part. South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long created the experiment and said in the AP story that more than 99 percent of the participants passed the 166,000 tests administered at sheriffs' offices in the state. Long and other officials did not have any figures on whether the pilot program had reduced South Dakota drunken driving accidents and fatalities, but did say that it was at least appearing to keep people sober.
24-year-old Lacey Graff was just one participant in the pilot program. After being arrested for drunk driving for the third time last August, Graff entered the program. Tested daily, Graff failed two tests and was immediately put in jail for two days.
Currently serving a 90-day jail sentence for her last South Dakota DUI offense, Graff described the program in the AP story as being a daily hassle but enlightening for her. She said that the program may have saved her life with the way she was going and added that it helped her decide to check into rehab.
What Prompted this South Dakota DUI Law?
South Dakota has one of the highest alcohol-related highway death rates in the country, with the latest figures from 2005 showing that 26% of drivers in deadly crashes that year had been drinking.
Long said that many people who are arrested for DUI are alcoholics who continue to drink and drive despite having their licenses suspended. Long added that the program addresses the bigger issue at hand: getting these people to stop drinking. Long commented that he does not care of previously-convicted South Dakota DUI offenders are driving as long as they've quit drinking.
With that in mind, the pilot sobriety program has revealed several benefits. To begin with, program participants can not manipulate the system. They must show up for their two daily tests during set hours, most often between six and nine in the morning and five and nine at night. If program participants don't show up, they are put in jail.
This South Dakota 24/7 sobriety program has also proved beneficial in that it has freed up space in congested jails and prisons in the state. As for smaller counties, this program has proven to be flexible. In places where it is difficult or costly to hire technicians to conduct breathalyzers, Long said that officials are beginning to consider alternative drug-monitoring patches and alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelets.