Lawmaker: Sobriety testing bill could keep more people out of jail

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Idaho wants to crack down on people who use alcohol on probation, even after a judge orders them to stay sober.

Although there is already a system in place, the only sure way a judge can know people on probation stay sober throughout the entirety of their probation is to keep them in jail.

A bill, sponsored by Rep. Luke Malek, would give judges the option to require people who have been convicted of drug or alcohol related crimes to take daily sobriety tests while they're on probation to prove they're staying sober.

"DUIs, alcohol related crimes are a huge cost here in the state of Idaho," Malek said. "It's about $50 per day to keep someone in jail."

In addition to that, Malek said Idaho has too many people in its jails and prisons. He said the bill would keep some people out of jail, and save taxpayers money.

"It's expensive to keep people in jail so the fact that people are actually not in jail is actually a savings for the taxpayer," he said. "It's going to cost the defendants less as well."

Defendants however, would cover the costs of the program. In exchange for jail time, they would pay $4 per day to take two sobriety tests every day while they are on probation to show they're sticking to their terms.

"I think accountability is a huge part of this," Malek said. "I think what we're doing is we're providing accountability and helping people practice good life skills through this program so I'd argue we're making society safer."

We called the Department of Correction to get their take on the bill, but they wouldn't comment. We also talked with people in Boise who seemed to have mixed feelings about the program.

"I'm kind of mixed on it," Boise resident Natalie Monro said. "I do think it's a little bit invasive to be requiring tests twice a day, but then again, they broke the law so I don't know. I think it's a good idea, the thought behind it's good but I'm not sure if that's the best way to proceed."

Others said they were supportive of the bill.

"It strikes me that its going to be a way not only to be effective but to help the individual and that's we're after is to help the person who is addicted," Boise resident Jerry West said. "What better way than for them to know they're going to be checked twice a day!"

Malek said this wouldn't be mandatory. If people would choose not to accept additional probation terms, they would stay in jail until they serve their time.

The bill has passed through the House of Representatives and was read for the second time in the Senate Wednesday morning.