South Dakota’s 24/7 project was the first state-level program in the country to mandate and monitor hardcore drunk driving offenders. The project has one main goal for each DWI defendant: sobriety 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. The 24/7 Sobriety Project originated in South Dakota with former Attorney General Larry Long to address repeat impaired driving offenses. The pilot project began in January 2005 and expanded to 67 participating agencies, including police departments, sheriff’s offices, and the Unified Judicial System. Today, the project is in place in at least four other states (Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and North Dakota) and was included in the 2012 Federal Highway Bill as a way for states to utilize highway safety funding.

The 24/7 Sobriety Project provides unprecedented levels of supervision for first-time DWI offenders with a BAC of at least 0.17 percent and repeat DWI offenders. The 24/7 Sobriety Project is being used by the courts as a condition of bond, sentence/probation, and in family courts. The project stresses separating the offender from alcohol as a method of rehabilitating drunk drivers and changing behavior. The project uses a number of tools to ensure participant compliance. The tools include twice-a-day breath tests, transdermal monitoring systems, drug patches and urine tests. Some participants may be required by the court to use more than one testing/monitoring method. Of the participants who fail at least one test, 30 percent have their first failure within the first two weeks of beginning their participation in the project.

Participants who don’t show up for a scheduled test or who test positive for alcohol use may have their probation, parole or bond instantly revoked and immediately be jailed. Sanctions are swift, certain, and measured. Sanctions most often afford a reinstatement into the project.

The project allows for a considerable amount of freedom for the offender. For example, participants can still drive, work and stay with their families. This reduces jail populations and allows participants to continue to be part of their community. The community also benefits because the program has evolved into a participant pay model with formal adopted rules and procedures.  It requires no taxpayer dollars to operate.

According to an evaluation prepared for the South Dakota Attorney General, more than 20,000 DWI offenders have been placed on the program’s twice-per-day testing regimen. Of those, over 99 percent have shown up on time for compliance (breath) tests and tested negative for alcohol use; 0.6 percent failed to show up or failed their breath tests. Compared to DWI offenders not in the project, participants with two DWI arrests who were in the program for 30 consecutive days had a 74 percent reduction in recidivism when studied three years after their second DWI arrests. Those with three DWI arrests had a 44 percent reduction in recidivism, and those with four DWI arrests had a 31percent reduction in recidivism.

The web-based 24/7 Sobriety project’s management software coordinates data, testing sites, and communicates information to all agencies that touch the system and administer the project.  Flexibility is built into the business model and allows the testing agency to utilize existing or new resources to maximize efficiencies. Price points for testing have been kept low, eliminating the need for indigency considerations by the courts.

The project was originally initiated as an alternative to incarceration for DWI offenders. As the program grew, judicial and corrections personnel began placing offenders on the project for whom alcohol or drugs was a contributing cause to their illegal behavior. In 2009, DWI offenses comprised 59 percent of program participants. Learn more about this program.