Balancing treatment and punishment for drunk driving has always been challenging for both state legislatures and law enforcement in every state in the country, and Oklahoma is no exception. Methods to reduce drunk driving can be broadly grouped into three categories: deterrence measures, treatment measures, and punishments.
Deterrent measures are designed to discourage people from driving while under the influence. These can include educational programs, public service announcements and related advertisements, ignition interlock devices, and sobriety checkpoints (perhaps more notably the advance warning that such checkpoints will be used).
Treatment measures include the state’s Alcohol and Drug Substance Abuse Course (ADSAC), which applies upon conviction for a DUI offense, as well as means of monitoring alcohol consumption such as Secure Continuous Alcohol Remote Monitor (“SCRAM”) bracelets.
Punishments refer to the various sanctions that the law imposes on drunk drivers upon conviction, which can range from misdemeanor-level temporary license suspensions, fines, and probation or short-term jail terms to felony-level license revocations, heavy fines and state prison terms for repeat or serious offenders.
Oklahoma uses all three of these methods, but has so far declined to add one more to its array of drunk driving remedies: the “24/7 Sobriety Project.”
24/7 Sobriety is a program that originated is South Dakota, which was notorious for having a serious problem with drunk driving and related automobile accidents. The object of the program is to encourage drivers who have DUI convictions to remain sober by requiring them to physically show up at a test location (typically situated in a police station) twice a day to undergo a breathalyzer test, usually once in the morning and again in the evening. Those that pass the tests are allowed to drive without restriction. Those that do not pass can be arrested on the spot and be required to spend one or two nights in jail.
Proponents of the 24/7 Sobriety methodology point to its success in reducing the numbers of drivers who are repeat DUI offenders by as much as 12 percent (it also has a side effect of reducing domestic violence abuse cases by almost 10 percent). Detractors of the program claim that it is ineffective for first-time DUI offenders, that it can be “gamed” by wily individuals who either time their drinking to avoid getting caught by the breathalyzer or simply skip showing up for a test (betting that the police will not have the money, manpower or time to track them down).
The program has been adopted in several states other than South Dakota (although in one of those states a trial court judge has held it to be unconstitutional). But so far efforts to adopt 24/7 Sobriety in Oklahoma have been unsuccessful. A bill was introduced in the state senate in 2013, but did not progress into actual legislation. Nonetheless, the argument has been made that the mechanics of the program — the twice-a-day testing — do not actually need legislative approval in order for a judge to impose them as a part of sentencing (with the driver being obligated to pick up the minimal costs of the breathalyzer tests).
Whether another effort will be made to enact legislation establishing a 24/7 Sobriety program in this state, or whether an Oklahoma judge will implement something similar to it independently, remains to be seen. But given the willingness of lawmakers and law enforcers here to try most any other form of deterring, treating or punishing drunk drivers, it cannot be ruled out at some point in the future.