Clallam considers state sobriety pilot program for repeat drunken driving suspects

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has been selected for a state pilot project to offer a 24-hour sobriety program for repeat drunken driving suspects.

County officials are reviewing a proposed agreement with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and Friendship Diversion Services to become one of three counties and two cities statewide to establish and maintain the pilot program through June 2015.

The three commissioners Tuesday postponed a vote on the interagency agreement at the request of Sheriff Bill Benedict and Prosecuting Attorney William Payne.

“We looking at ways we can tailor it to our needs,” Benedict said.

The 24-hour sobriety program, which was established by the state Legislature, would require a repeat driving-under-the-influence offender to pay a $30 enrollment fee and subsequent nominal fees to take breath tests or other sobriety tests twice a day in lieu of jail time.

“The program is really designed to reduce jail and prison costs, enhance public safety and help offenders become clean and sober,” said Jim Borte, Clallam County Sheriff's Office project coordinator.

“And, also, to reduce recidivism rates by using an offender-paid model, hence one of the key components of this.”

Commissioners said they were prepared to approve the agreement Tuesday but postponed it indefinitely to give law and justice officials more time to work out the details.

“There are some constitutional issues,” Payne said.

“We're trying to resolve those.”

Commissioner Jim McEntire said he liked the concept of the sobriety program.

“Everybody does,” Payne replied. “We just want to make sure that all our T's are crossed.”

The 24/7 sobriety program began as a pilot program in South Dakota in 2004 and has since moved into North Dakota, Idaho and Montana, Benedict said.

A Montana district court judge recently struck down the pre-trial sobriety program on the grounds that the testing fees were unconstitutional, the Missoula, Mont., Missoulian reported.

“The program simply requires that participants test twice daily for alcohol and or other drugs,” Borte told commissioners in their Monday work session.

“There's several different technologies available: preliminary lab tests, UAs (urine analyses), drug patches, ignition interlock and probably the most technologically advanced system is the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, which is called SCRAM for short.

“And that's a transdermal technology that can test over any time of day and report into a location.”

Clallam County already contracts with Friendship Diversion for electronic home monitoring in certain criminal cases.

As the 24/7 sobriety program is designed, the repeat offender would pay $2 for a breath test or $2.50 for a drug patch or urine analysis, with the fees spit between among Friendship Diversion, the county and state.

The offender would be sent back to jail if he or she registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.02 or higher.

The legal driving limit in Washington is 0.08 percent.

“The amount of alcohol required to fail in this program is miniscule compared to DUI,” Benedict said.

“The first offense is like 24 hours (in jail), and then there's a graduated scale from there.”

Studies have shown that 99.3 percent of the those tested in the 24/7 sobriety program are clean, and recidivism was reduced by more than 14 percent, Borte said.

“It seems to me that behavior changes as a result of this program,” McEntire said.

“That's the whole idea, trying to get people not to drive under the influence of alcohol, substances, what have you.”

Spokane, Pierce and Clallam counties are being considered for the state pilot project.

The city of Centralia is the only jurisdiction where the program is up and running with six clients enrolled.

The city of Kent and Chelan County “decided for various reasons not to participate,” Borte said.

If Clallam County adopts the program, the cities of Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks would not be required to participate.

Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender Director said there are “very real due-process problems” with the program that could result in litigation.

He warned commissioners that signing the contract before getting the judges, prosecutors, probation offices and jail staff to sign on would be “putting the cart way before the horse.”

“It takes a commitment from all the parties to make this program work,” Gasnick said.

“That hasn't been done yet. So until you have that in place, you're premature in signing the contract.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 01. 2014 7:42PM
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