County Attorney pushes new program aimed to curb repeat DUI and other high-risk alcohol offenders
County Attorney Mike O’Connell is supporting a high-tech approach to curbing habitual drunk drivers with the rollout of Jefferson County’s new Continuous Alcohol Monitoring Program (CAMP).
Under the new initiative, prosecutors in O’Connell’s office will request that all repeat offenders for driving under the influence (DUI) wear alcohol-sensing anklets for varying periods of time to ensure that they aren’t drinking. The anklets, produced by SCRAM Systems, automatically test a subject’s perspiration every 30 minutes for alcohol consumption.
The 24-hour monitoring is designed to help individuals address their alcohol issues and reduce the chances that they will reoffend. The Jefferson County Attorney’s office will also recommend CAMP for certain alcohol-involved domestic violence cases and for first-time DUI offenders with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or greater that also have an additional serious aggravating factor. Aggravators would include multi-vehicle crashes or those that involve bodily injury or death, a driver under the age of 21, or having a minor-age child in the car at the time of arrest.
In addition to keeping roads safer from impaired drivers, O’Connell stressed the focus on rehabilitation with CAMP.
“The use of this alcohol-sensing technology can absolutely save lives,” O’Connell said. “This is an effort to use the accountability of the courts as a path toward sobriety. The longer a person is able to stay sober, the greater the chance that they will not commit a DUI or other alcohol-involved crime.”
Depending on the case, CAMP might be recommended while a defendant is awaiting trial, entered as a condition of a plea agreement, or both. The program could also conceivably cut city costs by allowing certain offenders to avoid jail days if they agree to continuous monitoring and demonstrate that they take their offense—and their alcohol misuse—seriously and are addressing the issue.
Offenders will pay for the monitoring with planning in place to help people who are indigent and cannot afford the costs. Monitoring costs nationwide average $10-12 a day. SCRAM Systems claims that former clients have self-reported spending on average about $14 per day on alcohol prior to wearing the bracelet. The office of the Jefferson County Attorney receives no money from the program.
Jurisdictions across the country have had success using SCRAM technology and continuous alcohol monitoring. York County, Pennsylvania reduced pretrial recidivism for drunk drivers by more than 90 percent. The district attorney in San Diego County, California–using monitoring guidelines similar to what is planned in Louisville–has saved taxpayer dollars by reduced jail overcrowding and seen earlier intervention for alcohol misuse.
Monitoring technology and services will be provided locally by Bluegrass Monitoring, which has monitored more than 9,200 individuals through similar efforts in the region as Ohio Alcohol Monitoring Systems.
Seminars are set for August 14-16 at the Louisville Bar Foundation to educate members of the local legal community, including judges and members of the defense bar, about the program.
CAMP is the latest tactic that O’Connell has promoted that uses the leverage of the court system to have a positive impact on addiction. His office has been instrumental in forming and supporting the Jefferson County’s Drug Treatment and Veterans’ Treatment Courts, and he has supported the use of Casey’s Law in Kentucky, which allows parents, spouses and others to seek the court’s assistance to order their loved one into treatment for drugs or alcohol.
BY THE NUMBERS
• According to Kentucky’s Administrative Office of the Courts, Jefferson County has averaged 4,260 charges of DUI each year since 2011. In 2016, there were 2,383 total DUI charges in Jefferson District Court and more than 22 percent (528) were repeat offenses.
• In 2016, 835 people in Kentucky died as a result of car crashes. The Commonwealth saw more than 4,200 collisions involving alcohol last year, resulting in more than 1,900 injuries and 119 alcohol-involved fatalities.
• On average, a DUI can cost a person $10,000 in attorney fees, fines and court costs, lost time at work, higher insurance rates, car towing and repairs etc. Based on 2010 data from NHTSA, impaired driving crashes cost the United States more $44 billion each year.
• SCRAM Systems has monitored nearly 600,000 people with the technology that will be used in Jefferson County, and on any given day, 99.3 percent of individuals are sober and fully compliant with their monitoring.