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So What Is Georgia Doing About Drunk Drivers?

Media Type: Press Release

DENVER—While the issue of drunk driving is never far from society’s collective conscience, the topic is front and center today in Georgia, as the state reels from a horrific DUI death that has gained national attention. And according to victim’s advocates and even corrections officials, it highlights one of the deadliest threats on the road: the hardcore, repeat drunk driver.

Twenty-one year old John Kemper Hutcherson is charged with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence, as well as other offenses, in the beheading of his best friend, Francis Daniel Brohm. The clincher: The Associated Press has reported that Hutcherson was jailed in 2001 on a number of traffic charges, including driving under the influence. Only 18 at the time, he pleaded guilty to underage possession, and the other charges were dismissed.

High-Tech Solution Latest Trend in Identifying, Deterring Repeat DUI Offenders

Different states deal with DUI offenses in a variety of different ways, but the trend in recent years, supported by the advent of DUI and Drug Courts, is to shift from the revolving-door approach — simply processing drunk drivers over and over — to better identifying, assessing and managing DUI offenders before they drink and drive again. Despite the notoriety of Brohm’s death, Georgia has been on the leading edge of the DUI epidemic, establishing DUIcourts in Savannah, Athens and Gainesville, and joining 21 other states around the country with the use of a new, 24-hour-a-day alcohol ankle bracelet. Called SCRAM—the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor—the system is an ankle bracelet/modem combination, much like a home arrest system. But instead of monitoring an offender’s location, the SCRAMBracelet, worn around-the-clock, samples an offender’s sweat every hour in order to determine Blood Alcohol Concentration. Used on DUI and other alcohol-involved offenders, industry analysts are calling it the best way to fight alcohol problems in the criminal justice system they’ve seen to-date.

Which Offenders Qualify for 24-Hour Alcohol Monitoring?

But what good will a high-tech alcohol sniffer do if offenders aren’t identified or even convicted of a DUI offense until they’ve been in the system more than a few times? “That’s one of the biggest advantages of SCRAM,” says Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems, which manufactures and markets SCRAM. “It’s not only a way to keep tabs on the repeat offender—it’s being used as a way to assess an offender’s alcohol problem from the very first time they’re in the system. In many jurisdictions, instead of simply plea-bargaining them to a lesser offense after they take an alcohol or drug awareness class, they’re allowed to plea bargain or defer a sentence after they wear SCRAM for 60 to 90 days. If you have an alcohol problem that makes you a prime candidate to be a repeat offender, we’re going to know it, period. And we can deal with you hopefully before you hurt someone.”

SCRAM has been in use since May in Cobb and seven other counties throughout the state. The DUI courts in Savannah, Athens and Gainesville are in the process of finalizing a contract for 50 more units. Georgia Probation Management, an independent service provider that is managing the SCRAMprogram throughout the state, believes the system will really make a difference. “The courts we service have been searching for years for a reliable solution to the problem of monitoring these types of offenders and making them accountable,” says GPM President and CEO Steve Page. “Our solution has arrived in this technology-filled ankle bracelet.”

According to Page, there is a critical need for this type of testing system, which is ideal for problematic DUI offenders, as well as in assault, domestic violence, and even child custody cases. “This technology has the potential to have an enormous impact on the criminal justice system. It provides a great level of accountability for the offender, gives the courts peace of mind because we can truly track what these alcohol offenders are doing, and it minimizes the risk these offenders can be to the community,” says Page.

SCRAM is currently in use in over 200 jurisdictions in 22 state, including courts in Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Orange County, California. Since its launch in April of 2003, SCRAM has completed more than 3.5 million tests on over 2,500 offenders. As with most monitoring programs, the offenders are responsible for the cost of the SCRAM System, including a daily monitoring fee. There is no cost to a court or specific county.AMS anticipates that more than 6,000 offenders throughout the United States will be monitored by SCRAM by the end of 2004.

About Georgia Probation Management, Inc.
Georgia Probation Management is a probation services company that provides electronic monitoring and drug and alcohol testing services to courts in Bibb, Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, Fulton, Lowndes, Newton, Peach and Walton Counties. GPM works closely with each court to structure the probation standards, develop sentencing guidelines, and establish probation policies. GPM is a privately held company headquartered in Cumming, Georgia.

About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufactures the world’s only noninvasive alcohol-detection system that automatically tests for alcohol every hour, 24 hours a day, regardless of the individual’s location.SCRAM (the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) is the first alcohol testing technology to use transdermal analysis to determine an individual’s Blood Alcohol Content. SCRAM fully automates the alcohol testing and reporting process, providing community corrections agencies and treatment organizations nationwide with the ability to classify DUI offenders and assess compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems is a privately held company headquartered in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.