By School Resource Officer Wes Libner, Soputh HighSchool Wes.Libner@fargo.k12.nd.us
Recently, I attended a meeting at Juvenile Court, where I became aware of an alternative sentencing program associated with drinking and driving, as well as other alcohol and drug related crimes, such as domestic violence and child neglect. This program is also for juveniles, so here is a rundown of what the program entails.
The program is the 24/7 Sobriety Program, and it is another weapon in the treatment arsenal. It was enacted in the 2007 ND Legislative Assembly and approved for juveniles in the 2009 Legislative Assembly. It was implemented by Juvenile Court in Cass County in July 2013. The program can be used as a condition of bond, pre-trial release, pre-sentencing, or post-conviction release. Program participation can be mandated by the court for an individual anywhere along the legal process. The program monitors an individual’s alcohol or drug use through one of four different processes: breath tests, bracelet monitoring, urinalysis testing, or drug patch testing.
Juvenile Court is the agency that mandates whether a juvenile offender is required to participate in the 24/7 Sobriety Program, which testing facility the offender reports to, and how long the juvenile is required to participate in the program. Violations of law that qualify a juvenile offender to be mandated into the 24/7 program are Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs or Minor in Consumption of Alcohol while driving a vehicle. Participation can also be applied for if a Juvenile is discovered to have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of at least .02 and is found to have been operating a motor vehicle within two hours of the BAC determination. Factors that determine how long the Juvenile Court requires an offender to participate in the program include: level of BAC at the time of arrest, prior criminal history, whether passengers including children were present in the offender’s vehicle, whether the offender was involved in a crash, and whether any injuries or fatalities were caused by a crash.
Program monitoring costs are paid by the offender. A parent or guardian is required to bring the juvenile offender to the reporting location. For the breath test monitoring method, the offender is required to report to the testing facility twice per day, to provide two breath samples 12 hours apart. The bracelet monitoring method works by detecting alcohol evaporated through the skin. Urinalysis testing can be required at regular or random intervals. Drug testing patches are worn on the skin, and detect the presence of drugs in the wearer’s body.
Offenders can fail any of these testing methods for positive results and/or attempting to defraud the test. The Juvenile Court determines the consequences for a juvenile offender who fails to meet the requirements of the program or exhibits positive test results. When adults fail, they are subject to immediately being taken into custody.
So, the question is, what kind of impact is the program having? According to the ND Attorney Generals website, over 98% of program participants successfully complete it, meaning they don’t drink or use drugs and drive during the monitoring period. The real success gauge will be the recidivism rate of offenders for DUI and alcohol related driving offenses.
For more information on the 24/7 Sobriety Program for adults and juveniles, go to http://www.ag.nd.gov/ and click on the 24/7 Sobriety Program link under the Public Safety Tab.