The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging Teton County’s 24/7 sobriety program. The program began in 2014, and it allows a judge to mandate breathalyzer tests twice a day for individuals awaiting trials on alcohol charges, such as driving under the influence. Communications Director for the ACLU of Wyoming Janna Farley said that might not be constitutional.
“We’ve got this idea in our country, you know, it’s this bedrock principle of you’re innocent until proven guilty. But this program is a gross overreach of government power,” she said.
The suit argues that the program violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects people from unlawful searches and seizures. Currently, if a person is 30 minutes late or more to their daily test, they can be subject to arrest without a warrant. That’s something Farley said is unnecessarily harsh.
“Sometimes, there are just things that are out of your control. Maybe your car breaks down. Maybe there was traffic. Maybe you had to work late,” she said. “You know, arresting someone for being late does nothing to improve public safety. It’s just simply an incredibly punitive pretrial release condition, especially for these first-time suspected offenders.”
The ACLU’s complaint also alleges that the program violates the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments, which protect U.S. citizens from unreasonable bail and pretrial arrests without due process of law. The suit was filed on behalf of two individuals who went through 24/7 testing, and Farley said the goal is to alter some program statutes and administrative rules to make it more constitutional.
In the last three months of 2021, 66 people in Teton County had to provide testing under the 24/7 program, according to the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Law enforcement officials argue that the program keeps the community safe and reduces incarceration rates.
The ACLU filed its suit in U.S. District Court and is demanding a jury trial.