South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety program could be rolled out nationwide

South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety program could be rolled out nationwide

The 24/7 Sobriety program, pioneered by former South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, requires offenders to submit to twice-a-day breathalyzer tests or remote monitoring as a condition of pre-trial bond or sentencing agreement. Failure to remain sober means the participant is sent to jail, a no-nonsense doctrine that has coincided with a decrease in DUI and other alcohol-related offenses, according to independent studies.

“That’s why it works,” Long said of 24/7 Sobriety, which is used in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana and is in place in four other states as pilot programs. “These people know that if they show up and blow hot, they’re going to jail.”

South Dakota is a testing ground for lawmakers and policy analysts seeking to reduce the effects of alcohol abuse, which kills more than 140,000 individuals nationally each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with an annual cost of nearly $250 billion due to lost work productivity and health care expenses. Since 24/7 Sobriety started in 2005, there have been more than 39,000 participants in South Dakota and nearly 12.5 million tests administered, with a pass rate of 98.8%, according to the attorney general’s office.

All but four South Dakota counties (Buffalo, Jones, Oglala Lakota and Todd) utilize the program, which focuses on repeat offenders and is largely self-funded because the cost of testing is passed on to participants. The original system, which targeted convicted drunken drivers, has expanded to include other cases involving alcohol or drugs, including cases involving abused or neglected children, and as a stipulation for maintaining a work permit.

In most counties, the first time the participant fails a test or doesn’t show up, he or she is jailed for 12 hours, followed by 24 hours for a second violation and 48 hours for a third. Any further violations are sent to a judge, who can revoke bond or the sentencing agreement and put the offender behind bars for an extended period.

Read the full story at South Dakota News Watch.