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Two New Tennessee Laws Will Clamp Down on State’s Repeat Offenders

Media Type: Press Release

Amelia’s Law, DUI Recidivism Reduction Act take effect July 1

NASHVILLE – As people head in to the July 4th holiday, well-known for DUIs and statewide sobriety checkpoints, two new tough-on-crime laws will go in to effect that will strengthen supervision and penalties for repeat drunk drivers, as well as other drug- and alcohol-involved criminal offenders. Officials believe both laws will help curb the behavior of high-risk, repeat impaired offenders and also help the state tackle enormous jail overcrowding issues.

Amelia’s Law was named for Maryville teenager Amelia Keown, who was killed in a head-on collision with a repeat drug and alcohol offender. The new law makes it possible for any offender whose crime involved drugs or alcohol to be monitored with a “transdermal monitoring device.” Both transdermal alcohol ankle monitors and drug patches meet the law’s definition of a transdermal device. This enhanced supervision option means repeat offenders can be monitored 24/7 and held accountable for any violation of mandatory sobriety.

Amelia’s Law applies to any person paroled on or after July 1, 2014. The law is seen as particularly tough because it expands monitoring beyond the traditional drunk driver population to any criminal offender who was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of their offense. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), over 50% of state parole and probation violators were under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both when they violated the terms of their current sentence. And 75% of cases of domestic violence involve an offender who was drunk at the time of the conviction offense.

The DUI Recidivism Reduction Act

In addition to Amelia’s Law, the DUI Recidivism Reduction Act will also take effect on July 1. Focusing specifically on drunk drivers, the law gives courts the power to sentence 2nd and 3rd time DUI offenders to substance abuse treatment as a condition of probation, but only after completing a mandatory period of time in jail. It also allows courts to require transdermal alcohol monitoring or location monitoring, combined with random alcohol testing, for those who are released into the community and undergoing the mandatory treatment.

According to data published by Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems, the largest manufacturer of transdermal alcohol monitoring device, every day in the U.S. 99.4% of those monitored with a transdermal monitor are completely sober and compliant. In order for a system to meet the requirements of the state’s new laws, it must automatically sample a subject’s perspiration at least every 30 minutes, 24/7, in order to ensure compliance with court-ordered sobriety.

Tackling Jail Overcrowding

Tennessee faces enormous prison and jail overcrowding issues, costing taxpayers nearly $900 million each year. More than half of the state’s 109 jails house more inmates than beds—some with two to three times as many inmates as they are certified for. County jail inmates cost the state’s taxpayers around $80 per day, per offender, and those facilities are particularly overburdened, as convicted offenders heading for state prisons often languish at county facilities because space isn’t available at the state level.

Drunk drivers are considered by some to be on the list of “nonviolent” offenders who are first to be released to ease overcrowding. Officials believe the monitoring options, combined with the law’s mandatory treatment after incarceration, will keep communities safe while helping ease the financial burdens on the state’s taxpayers.

About AlcoholMonitoringSystemsInc. (AMS)
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS) is the world’s leading provider of alcohol testing technologies for the criminal justice industry. The company’s Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM) technology, launched in 2003, changed the way courts, agencies and treatment providers monitor and manage alcohol-involved offenders. In 2013 the company launched the SCRAM Systems™ suite of electronic monitoring technologies, which includes SCRAM Remote Breath™SCRAM One-Piece GPS,™SCRAM Dual-Function GPS™ and SCRAM House Arrest™. AMS employs 180 people worldwide and is a privately held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.