Thursday, April 7, 2011

Will the bad ideas ever cease?

Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. must be paying their lobbyists in Austin a pretty penny as legislation is pending before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that would require motorists placed on probation for DWI to wear a SCRAM bracelet. The legislation was authored by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Grapevine).

For those of y'all not familiar with SCRAM, it's an ankle bracelet that supposedly monitors a person's sweat for the presence of alcohol. The device is supposed to be super-sensitive to alcohol and is, therefore, known for giving false readings due to cologne, perfume, body spray and lotions (just to name a few). The device is also prohibitively expensive for most folks who find their way into the criminal (in)justice system.

The device requires a deposit and a monthly fee approaching $500.

Interestingly enough, AMS markets its ankle monitor for the "hard-core" drunk driver -- not the first-time offender.

All such a requirement will do is force more motorists to accept jail time instead of probation due to the prohibitive cost and will increase the number of motions to revoke filed by probation officers due to faulty equipment.

Sen. Nelson and her ilk don't seem to realize that a DWI probation is the more severe sentence a first-time offender can receive. This person, who likely has no prior contact with the criminal (in)justice system, must now report to a probation officer once a month, be subject to random piss tests, and drive around for at least a year with an ignition interlock device in their car. There is a reason that most criminal defense attorneys advise their clients to take time served and a fine (if offered).

I noticed there is no fiscal note attached to the proposed legislation. It would appear that Sen. Nelson hasn't thought about the increase in the number of people who may have no choice but to opt for jail time instead of probation. It also appears that Sen. Nelson has no idea of the true cost to a motorist of a DWI conviction as things stand currently.

Enough of the piling on. What's next? A registry for motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated? Oh, that's already been proposed.


Thomas Hobbes said...

I'm really surprised that you're focusing on the device's capability, rather than on the inability of the defendant to challenge the results once he/she is finally confronted with what they are alleged to have done perhaps days before.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

Thanks for your comment.

That inability to challenge the results also occurs with any machine used to measure for the presence of alcohol. And, if it's a motion to revoke the state only has to prove a violation by a preponderance of the evidence -- shifting the burden to the accused.

A far bigger concern is challenging the devices when they are ordered as a condition of bond.

Thomas Hobbes said...

We should chat . . .

Paul B. Kennedy said...

Shoot me an e-mail.