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Insight from West Fargo PD: Sobriety program strives to keep criminals alcohol free

In 2007 the 60th Legislative Assembly authorized the Attorney General to establish a sobriety program pilot project modeled after the very successful 24/7 sobriety program of South Dakota. The pilot project was conducted in the South Central Judicial District. The project obtained notable success in the pilot area and was expanded to all judicial districts in North Dakota during the 2009 legislative session.

The sobriety program is meant to ensure those charged or convicted of certain crimes refrain from the use of alcohol. The person's compliance with the sobriety program guidelines is established through the person submitting to a breath test twice per day seven days per week at a law enforcement agency; electronic monitoring, including home surveillance and remote electronic alcohol monitoring; and/ or urine analysis and drug patch testing. Costs associated with certain portions of the testing are assessed back to the person participating in the program.

Participation in the 24/7 sobriety program may be ordered by the court of jurisdiction as a condition of a person's bond, pre-trial release, or post-conviction sentencing. The sobriety program was established to reduce repeat offenses and to implement procedures as an alternative to incarceration for persons charged with, or convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances; domestic violence; abuse or neglect of a child; or for other offenses in which alcohol or controlled substances are involved.

If during testing a law enforcement officer has reasonable cause to believe a person has violated the lawful order which requires the person to participate in the twenty-four seven sobriety program the officer may arrest the person without a warrant. A person arrested for a violation of the 24/7 participation order may not be released on bail or on the individual's personal recognizance unless the individual has made a personal appearance before a magistrate. Simply put, if the individual does not appear for testing, tampers with the testing equipment or fails the test they go directly to jail.

If a person has been charged with, or convicted of, a second or subsequent violation of the offense of driving under the influence and the offender's driver's license is not subject to an unrelated suspension or revocation, the ND Driver's License Division shall issue a temporary restricted driver's permit to the person only for the purpose of participation in the twenty-four seven sobriety program.

The 24/ 7 sobriety program has proven itself successful as evidenced in a recent research report released in South Dakota. Those monitoring the program in North Dakota are reporting similar successes. The basic concept of 24/ 7 is simple. If the program can restrict a person's consumption of alcohol the person is less likely to commit another alcohol related offense. Reducing alcohol related offenses should be a goal of all citizens of North Dakota.