JACKSON, Wyo. — The ACLU of Wyoming has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s 24/7 Sobriety Program and its application in Teton County.
The lawsuit asserts that the daily warrantless searches are constitutional violations when applied to people who haven’t yet been convicted of a crime.
The 24/7 Sobriety Program serves as an alternative to incarceration and aims to reduce the number of people in Teton County’s jail. It allows offenders to remain in the community with their family and friends and permits offenders to maintain employment.
The lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court of Wyoming on behalf of two individuals – Alfredo Guillermo Sanchez and David Christopher “Chris” Ball, previous participants who were charged with driving under the influence and who can be placed back on the 24/7 Sobriety Program in Teton County at any time. All other pretrial participants of the program are also included in the lawsuit.
Originally created by a 2014 state law, Wyoming’s 24/7 Sobriety Program allows a judge to mandate a breathalyzer test twice a day, every day, for those awaiting trial on alcohol charges. The program was originally designed for repeat offenders of alcohol and drug-related arrests, but in Teton County, it is also being used as a pretrial condition for first-time offenders following amendment of the law in 2019.
“The 24/7 Sobriety Program is a court-based management program originally designed for repeat Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenders,” reads the Teton County Sheriff Office’s (TCSO) website.
According to the TCSO, the 24/7 Sobriety Project sets the standard of no use of alcohol and no use of illegal drugs as a condition of continuing to drive and remaining in the community, rather than being incarcerated and is enforced by intensive monitoring by Teton County Sheriff’s Office with alcohol and drug testing mandated for each participant.
Violation of program rules leads to immediate and usually brief incarceration of the offender.
However, a legal director at the ACLU of Wyoming argues that pretrial participants should not be subject to searches as they are innocent until proven guilty.
“Requiring participants to submit to warrantless searches is problematic for all persons who have been arrested and merely accused of an offense but who are not yet convicted,” said Stephanie Amiotte, ACLU of Wyoming legal director. “Pretrial participants in Wyoming’s 24/7 Sobriety Program should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to due process and meaningful hearings. Without that, the 27/7 Program is an egregious violation of their constitutional rights.”
The ACLU argues that the 24/7 program particularly violates the following:
The Fourth Amendment for potentially unreasonable searches and seizures
The Fourteenth Amendment for depriving participants of liberty through sometimes repeated pretrial arrests potentially without due process of law
The Eighth Amendment for potentially depriving participants of reasonable bail and bail conditions
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Wyoming and Darold W. Killmer with Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, with support from Lauren McLane with the Defender Aid Clinic at the University of Wyoming College of Law.