Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TX lawmaker wants DWI alcohol monitors

Updated: Friday, 19 Nov 2010, 6:40 PM CST
Published : Friday, 19 Nov 2010, 6:38 PM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - Her attorney could help the former teen queen avoid the device that only furthered her star status. Now, it is pretty common to hear "Lindsay Lohan" and "ankle bracelet" in the same celebrity gossip. But her accessory was serious, complements of drunk driving.

"The SCRAM device is about three to four inches wide, and it wraps around your ankle to detect alcohol coming through the pores of the skin,” said Will Mitchell, Travis County Criminal Defense Attorney.

SCRAM is the most common brand of alcohol monitor. If one north Texas lawmaker, Sen. Jane Nelson , R-Flower Mound, has her way, every person in the state caught driving drunk and goes on probation will have to wear one for 60 days. She filed Senate Bill 232 this week.

"It puts a stigma on our back. It creates the spectra of big brother, and it invades our privacy for reasons that are unnecessary,” said Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Criminal defense attorneys we asked know the device well. Some Texas courts already use it and have had problems with it malfunctioning.

"Certain kinds of lotions or body sprays or perfumes or soaps could trigger a false positive,” Mitchell said.

Beyond that hassle, there is also the cost. For the SCRAM device, alcohol offenders would have to pay up to $15 a day for 60 days, totaling $900. Add up to another $100 to install it..

Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving that usually back bills to deter drunk driving say this one might be off base, adding that lawmakers should focus their efforts on other programs like checkpoints instead.

"What we're really interested in is keeping people from driving if they're drunk, as opposed to stopping them from drinking at all,” said Bill Lewis with M.A.D.D.

So, while taking the spotlight in Hollywood courts, alcohol monitors might have a tough time finding the same fame in Texas.

During 2010, there have been more than 1,400 DWI cases in Travis County where the offender was released on probation. If this law was already in effect, that would be the group wearing the monitors.

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