At its Sept. 6 meeting, the Grand County Commission approved a cooperative agreement with the Utah Department of Public Safety to participate in the “24/7 Sobriety Program,” which is already in place in some other Utah counties.
“It was put in place to try to help people with DUIs,” explained Grand County Sheriff Lieutenant Shan Hackwell. “Instead of just, you write them a ticket, they go to jail, pay a fine, they lose their license—the problem with that is that a lot of people that get a DUI, they also work.” With no other way to get to work than driving, many people choose to drive in spite of having a suspended license, leading to more severe consequences.
“This program was put in place to try and help with that, but also monitor them so they’re not drinking and driving,” Hackwell said.
Through the program, people who are found guilty of a DUI either for alcohol or a controlled substance can receive a stay on any jail sentence and instead be put on probation and keep their license, with the condition that they agree to monitoring for alcohol or substance use for a period of time. The monitoring can be done through a Continuous Alcohol Monitoring bracelet or ankle monitor, which measures alcohol levels through the skin every 30 minutes and transmits the information to a base station daily; or the participant can report to the jail twice a day for a breathalyzer test. Participants are charged $10 a day for the ankle monitor or $4 a day for the breathalyzer tests. Participation can range from a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of a year. If the participant violates the terms of the program, they will be sentenced to serve jail time; repeat violations would result in potentially being ejected from the program and facing normal consequences of a DUI.
Hackwell said he wants to participate—“I’m in support of any program that helps individuals,” he said—and he thinks the Grand County Jail staff can handle the administration of the program, but he wants to implement it gradually.
“I don’t want to overwhelm my staff,” Hackwell said. “The idea was to start slow, and then we’re going to reassess after six months and see how the program’s going.” The program would be capped at six participants to begin with.
“It sounds like a great program to me,” said Commission Chair Jacques Hadler. “As a longtime employer, I’ve certainly had employees who have been guilty of DUIs over the years and I know getting to work could be a big struggle for some of them.”
“It sounds like this program has been very successful throughout the state,” Hackwell said. “We’re not the last county to join, but there’s quite a few counties that are participating; I know San Juan is, and a lot of the other surrounding counties are participating—it seems to be working.”
“I could see this being successful enough that it will, eventually, probably need more staffing for the jail,” said Commissioner Mary McGann, suggesting that the commission take that into consideration when determining the county’s budget.