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Should Drunk Drivers Get a Pass?

Our current system of punishment for drunk driving is a graduated series of ever more severe consequences, ranging from loss of license and fines through to jail terms. A suggestion bandied about by Wyoming lawmakers would make a fundamental change in this system.

The 24/7 Sobriety Program is being used in other states as a way to change drunk driving behavior without incarceration. It puts people into a program, after their second or subsequent DUI which monitors alcohol use on a daily basis. Offenders can avoid jail by agreeing to the testing or by wearing a bracelet that monitors alcohol level.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported that a presentation was made to the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee and staffers will be drawing up a proposed bill for consideration in the next legislative session.

More about the program can be found at the Century Council website. Although Wyoming’s version may differ, the general outlines should be similar.

First time DUI offenders with a high BAC, along with repeat offenders, can receive a conditional license and continue to drive as long as they meet testing requirements – the model program tests twice daily. Other versions use a patch that monitors alcohol and a third option is a urine test. If participants fail the tests, then the normal fines and sentences kick in. Testing is usually made a stipulation of probation with a bond in place to back it up financially.

Since driving privileges are very important in Wyoming, the program is likely to be attractive to DUI offenders. And since the purpose is changing behavior, rather than simply punishment, when the program is successful it can aid alcoholics in their quest to remain sober.

Critics of the program react badly to the idea of DUI, especially repeat DUI, not resulting in “real” punishment – those that follow the guidelines don’t have to go to jail and will eventually get their driver’s license restored.


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