New Year Brings Sobriety Testing For Repeat Drunk Drivers

By Austin Jenkins

Repeat drunk drivers in Washington who get arrested in the New Year may find themselves ordered to blow into a breathalyzer twice a day. Starting January 1st, three counties and two small cities will begin piloting a 24/7 sobriety program modeled after one in South Dakota.

Spokane, Chelan and Thurston counties plus the cities of Kent and Centralia are the guinea pigs for this new sobriety program in Washington. Here’s how it works: participants are required to either report to jail twice a day to give a breath test or pay more for an ankle bracelet that monitors for alcohol consumption. Bruce Bjork runs the pilot program for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. He has this warning for would-be repeat drunk drivers.

Bruce Bjork: “Judge may place you into this program for intense alcohol monitoring on a 24 hour basis, seven days a week for six months or longer.”

Bjork says based on 2012 numbers, the pilot 24/7 sobriety program could have as many as a thousand eligible participants in the first year. The drunk driver pays for the program estimated at $4 a day for the breath tests or $10 to $12 a day for the ankle monitoring. The plan is to expand the program statewide by 2017. Washington lawmakers adopted this approach in response to a series of tragic crashes involving repeat drunk drivers.

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