“Judges should take a proactive role to ensure immediate reporting of violations and set up a system to deal with violations.”- Judge Richard Vlavianos

Identification of Responsibility

A multi-disciplinary approach is essential to ensure compliance with bond conditions and conditions of sentencing. The criminal justice system’s responsibility does not end with the conviction. If a violation of a condition of sentence occurs, swift action should be taken in order to protect the public and change the behavior of the hardcore drunk driver.

  • Communication: Violations of conditions of bond and sentences must be accompanied by a swift response. Communication with law enforcement agencies and the judiciary is crucial to effectively deal with the hardcore drunk driver. Law enforcement agencies should be instructed on how a violation will be handled. Law enforcement agencies and parole/probation officers must be aware of conditions of bond and sentence. This may require that law enforcement dispatch agencies be provided with copies of these conditions. In jurisdictions where the court must first be presented with notices of violations of conditions of bond and sentence, consider obtaining court approval in hardcore drunk driving cases for arrests to be made upon discovery of violations.

Tools and Technologies to Assist in the Supervision of DWI Offenders

Technology is a rapidly changing field. It is also a tool and not a replacement for good supervision practices. There are many tools and technologies available to enhance offender monitoring. The following list contains some of the tools and technologies to consider when supervising the hardcore drunk driving offender:

The following list is not an endorsement of any particular product.

Electronic Monitoring (EM)

An electronic monitor is a device that is placed on an individual and used to monitor his or her location and activities. It is typically used as an alternative to incarceration or as a condition of community supervision. How EM can aid in supervision of DWI offenders:

  • Provides structure and close supervision, enables offenders to obtain or maintain employment, and supports and reinforces rehabilitation and treatment.
  • EM devices can also have alcohol sensors attached to determine the use of alcohol. Offenders on sentencing alternatives, such as staggered sentencing, are often required to use EM devices with alcohol sensors as a supervision strategy.
  • Less expensive than incarceration and reduces jail overcrowding.
  • EM devices can be added as a sanction for noncompliant behavior or removed as an incentive for compliance. In most cases, the cost associated with EM is assessed to the offender and not having to pay is an incentive for compliant behavior.
  • Officers can use hand-held devices to conduct “drive-by” verifications. Actively or passively reports data to an officer or central monitoring agency.

Ignition Interlock Devices

An ignition interlock is a device that is installed on motor vehicles to prohibit individuals under the influence of alcohol from operating the vehicle. Individuals are required to blow into the device before starting the vehicle. If the device detects alcohol (usually at a .02 percent BAC or above), it will prevent the vehicle from starting. In addition, at random times during the operation of the vehicle, the driver will be prompted to blow into the device to ensure the driver is not under the influence. A report of the BAC level at the time of every ignition start-up is maintained in the unit.


When used as a condition of supervision in conjunction with monitoring and reporting, the ignition interlock provides DWI offenders with an alternative to full license suspension. Use of the device for repeat or high BAC offenders is often required by legislation and/or mandated by the motor vehicle department or other administrative authority. All states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation providing for its integration into the DWI adjudication and sentencing process.

The cost of the ignition interlock is usually charged to the offender, which often denies indigent offenders access. Indigent funds should be established allowing access for those who are unable to pay.

How ignition interlock devices can aid in supervision of DWI offenders:


  • Installation of an ignition interlock device prevents driving after drinking and allows the DWI offender to remain employed, in school, and involved in other pro-social activities when a driver’s license has been suspended.
  • Data obtained through the recording device shows patterns of abuse that can lead to DWIs and the information offers insight into offender behaviors and triggers for relapse.
  • Interlocks have been found to be beneficial for both first-time and repeat alcohol impaired offenders. “The interlock is very effective while it is on the vehicle, and  the net benefit [accumulated during time on and off the interlock] in terms of reduced recidivism is substantial.” (Robertson, R.D., Vanlaar, W.G.M., & Simpson, H. M. (2006).

In-Home Alcohol Monitoring Systems

This is a portable, alcohol-specific fuel cell device equipped with a camera that allows for positive photo identification and is intended for home use. The device plugs into a wall outlet. The offender blows into the device whenever a test is requested by the monitoring authorities. A built-in microchip records all test results, disconnections, times and dates of tests and photos. The offender takes the device to a service center for data downloads as required.

How in-home alcohol monitoring systems can aid in supervision of DWI offenders:


  • Can be used in tandem with EM devices during confinement to determine the use of alcohol.
  • Can be added as a sanction for noncompliant behavior or removed as an incentive for compliance. In most cases, the cost associated is similar to an ignition interlock device and is assessed to the offender.
  • Data obtained through the recording devices show patterns of abuse that can lead to DWIs and the information offers insight into offender behaviors and triggers for relapse.

Continuous Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring

A typical condition of sentencing or probation for DWI offenders is court mandated abstinence for a specified period of time. Courts have traditionally used random testing methods to enforce this condition. The shortcoming of random testing is it only shows if the individual is sober at the specific “point in time” the test was administered.

One of the more recent advances in alcohol testing is continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring which is being used across the varying spectrums of the criminal justice system. Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring is used in pretrial settings for DWI offenders, as an order of the court upon adjudication or sentence and as a condition of community supervision in a probation or parole setting.

Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring technology measures an individual’s transdermal alcohol concentration levels as alcohol migrates through the skin as a byproduct of ingesting alcohol. If an offender has been drinking, the technology will detect the presence of ethanol vapor in the perspiration of an individual. Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring devices can determine if an individual has consumed a small, moderate or large amount of alcohol.

Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring has been subject to validation by the Federal government and scientific research entities across the country. To date there have been 22 independent, peer-reviewed studies as well as judicial acceptance. Courts across the country have increasingly integrated continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring technology into their community supervision strategies, specifically using the data from the devices to better manage and supervise offenders. Recent advancement in the technology has incorporated dual function curfew monitoring or home confinement functionality into the systems providing courts with the ability to implement sanction-based programming in addition to monitoring an individual for alcohol consumption.

Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring is most effective when used with hardcore drunk drivers who are highly resistant to changing their behavior and in tandem with treatment efforts.

How continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring can aid in supervision of DWI offenders:

  • Significant reductions in recidivism can be achieved when continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring technology is coupled with treatment in hardcore drunk driver populations.
  • Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring technology provides courts with a tool that adds accountability to offender compliance and enhances treatment and rehabilitation efforts while allowing the offender to remain in the community as a productive member of society.
  • Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring’s dual function device combines the benefits of EM and continuous alcohol testing.
  • The cost ($10-12 a day) is usually borne by the offender. The application of this technology results in reduced incarceration which is a cost savings to the community.

Today there are over 1,500 jurisdictions using continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring technology with more than 15,000 offenders monitored daily. To date there have been over 225,000 offenders monitored in 48 states, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Breath, Blood and Urinalysis Testing

DWI offenders are usually required to abstain from the use of alcohol or drugs during the term of supervision. The chemical analysis of breath, blood, or urine testing can be used to monitor court-mandated compliance and detect the specific amount of alcohol and/or drugs in the offender’s system. Breath and urinalysis (UA) testing allows the supervision officers

to randomly test for the use of alcohol and other drugs during office or home contacts. The offender can also be referred to a hospital or a lab for UA or blood testing.

How breath, blood, and UA testing can aid in supervision of DWI offenders:


  • With the proper equipment, or with equipment used by law enforcement officers, supervision officers can give quick on-the-spot breath tests to determine a specific BAC.
  • Supervision officers can request that an offender submit to UA testing, for the detection of drugs other than alcohol, during office or home contacts.
  • Because breath and UA testing can be required on a random basis, varying schedules can be developed.
  • Testing can also be increased (sanction) or decreased (incentive) as needed to reward compliant behaviors or sanction noncompliant behavior.

Imposition of sanctions:

  • Appropriate: Sentencing of hardcore drunk driving defendants must be appropriate to the nature and severity of both the infraction and the individual defendant. Evaluation provides key information about the defendant, allowing appropriate sanctions to be tailored to fit the particular circumstances of that defendant.
  • Swift: The quick detection, identification, and assessment of those who repeatedly drive drunk are essential to keeping the hardcore drunk driver off the road.
  • Certain: The application of swift and certain penalties that restrict the offender from driving, punish the offense and rehabilitate the offender must be imposed consistently to change hardcore behavior.