PHOENIX, AZ—Always known as a progressive state when it comes to tough laws for drunk drivers, Arizona’s newest DUI legislation, signed in to law last month by Governor Jan Brewer, has been criticized for what critics say is a step backwards from the state’s precedent-setting penalties for first-time DUI offenders. But both lawmakers and criminal justice professionals throughout the state are saying SB 1200 is a key piece of legislation that will help the state make an important shift in focus: Aggressively addressing the alcohol misuse issues that lead to 70 percent of the country’s alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
Senator Linda Gray (Republican), long known as a proponent of tough laws to improve the state’s supervision of DUI offenders, sponsored SB 1200, which garnered attention for perceived reductions in the state’s requirement for one-year of ignition interlock monitoring for first-time drunk drivers, a groundbreaking piece of legislation when it passed in 2007. But lawmakers say SB 1200 makes appropriate modifications to interlock policy, incentivizing first-time offenders, the majority of whom are never repeat offenders, to earn early removal of the device after six months. Those who don’t meet early removal requirements through program compliance must use the interlocks the full year, and possibly longer. SB 1200 also allows a person who may be required to drive a vehicle as a condition of employment to wear a Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM) bracelet, such as a SCRAMx (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) device, to monitor for alcohol consumption every 30 minutes, 24/7, to minimize the risk that they lose their job due to the interlock requirements.
But the most notable changes to Arizona’s DUI law comes in the form of enhanced incarceration requirements and tougher electronic monitoring for Hard Core Drunk Drivers (HCDDs) once they’re released into the community. Both initiatives are focused on managing and modifying the root cause of the repeat DUI epidemic: alcohol abuse and addiction.
SB 1200 increases the amount of time an offender must actually serve incarcerated to 20 percent of their sentence before they’re eligible for community supervision, a policy intended to make an impact on HCDDs and give them a mandatory period of time where they’re sober. The new law also substantially enhances electronic monitoring requirements once HCDDs are released into the community, giving the DOC, sheriffs and municipalities options for both home detention monitoring and CAM programs to improve public safety and long-term behavior outcomes. Both monitoring programs require the offender to pay the daily monitoring fees, not taxpayers.
Hard Core Drunk Drivers (HCDDs), defined as individuals who drive with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .15 or above and/or have more than one drunk driving arrest, cause the vast majority of fatal alcohol-involved crashes each year. And they are 380 times more likely to cause a fatal crash, according to The Century Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on changing laws and developing research and programs aimed at mitigating the impact of HCDDs. “One hundred percent of HCDDs test positive for alcohol abuse or dependence, and they represent the most dangerous drivers because they often slip through the system,” says Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of Alcohol Monitoring Systems, which manufactures and markets the SCRAMx System in 48 states. “States like Arizona, which has been in the forefront of legislating enhanced penalties for aggravated drunk drivers, are beginning to pass laws aimed at tackling the behavior and addiction issues of the offender, not just sanctioning the car,” he says. According to Iiams, the combination of tough interlock laws for first-timers and tough sobriety requirements for repeat offenders is making a substantial difference in the rate of alcohol-related fatalities in the U.S. “We’ve finally learned there is no “silver bullet,” but rather a combination of laws, programs and technologies that need to be made available to truly make an impact,” he says. SB 1200 will go into effect December 31, 2011.
SCRAMx has monitored more than 170,000 offenders in 48 states and more than 4,000 in Arizona, predominantly in Maricopa County, since 2004.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS) is the world’s largest provider of Continuous Alcohol Monitoring technology. AMS manufactures SCRAMx, which uses non-invasive transdermal analysis to monitor alcohol consumption and integrates home detention monitoring into a single anklet. SCRAMx fully automates the alcohol testing and reporting process, providing courts and community corrections agencies with the ability to continuously monitor alcohol offenders, increase offender accountability and assess compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. AMS employs 126 people across the U.S. and is a privately-held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.