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Sobriety monitoring devices gain momentum in the state

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By The Staff

A bill aimed at curbing the state’s DWI problem easily cleared Senate Public Affairs Committee this week.
Senate Bill 197 from Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, targets DWI offenders who do not own cars but must avoid alcohol to meet terms of their probation by putting a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) type device in their homes.
“It fixes the DWI Interlock problem, and allows people to serve their sentences,” Munoz said.
Not everyone is so sure what the bill is proposing would work.
Morrie Pongratz, a member of the DWI Planning Council, said he is cautious about what the bill is proposing, adding, “I think they ought to monitor people, not buildings.”
Capt. Randy Foster commented, “We support any way we think would reduce DWI’s.”
The alcohol monitor is a bracelet continuously worn on the ankle that is picked up by a sensing device in a home or office. The device would check alcohol levels every half hour and automatically record or download the information so a probation officer and judge can determine if the wearer’s probation should be revoked.
SB 197 targets people required to use an electronic sobriety monitoring device as a condition of their probation and parole and provides for payment assistance from the Interlock Device Fund if they can’t afford the cost.
Munoz said the device is very effective in stopping alcohol abuse problems. Munoz explained that McKinley County did a 30-day test by putting the monitors on two parents in the same household.
Munoz said their daughter thanked the judge who ordered it and said “my parents are sober, they’re getting along, everybody’s happy in my family.” Munoz said it changed the parents’ drinking habits, which is the ultimate goal, “fixing their drinking habits so they won’t drink and drive.”  On average, there are 50-70 DWIs issued each year in Los Alamos, Foster said.