You Are Being Watched: DUI Pretrial Conditions

Technology is wonderful. However, it can be liberating or it can be a ball and chain. In DUI cases, more and more frequently these days, judges are using technology to monitor people who were arrested and charged with DUI, but who have not yet been found guilty of anything. These citizens are simply awaiting their day in court - the trial date. The court has authority to set "conditions of release" which regulate the conduct of a person accused of DUI pending trial. It is not uncommon for conditions of release resulting from a first offense DUI arrest (a misdemeanor) to be as onerous as the conditions that would be imposed in the case of a serious felony charge. You have probably read in the newspaper about the use of GPS tracking devices to monitor the movement of felons who have served time in prison for sex offenses. Nobody argues with the beneficial use of this technology. However, some Washington state DUI courts (King County DUI arrests, Seattle DUI arrests, etc) are imposing a similar condition on the release of a person who has been arrested for DUI, but who has not yet been found guilty of anything. One of the devices that is used is called the "Smart One" wearable GPS tracking device. This device is attached to the ankle of the person to be monitored. Thereafter, real-time data is sent to a computer and this is placed over a Google map so that a visual picture of the individual's travels throughout the day may be obtained at any time by the police officer who is monitoring the DUI case for the court. Some of these devices have sensors that will detect and report if any alcohol has been used. Another device that is currently in use to monitor citizens who have a DUI arrest is the in-home electronic home monitoring device that includes a breath testing machine called the Mems 3000. This all-in-one device also contains a digital camera. It is installed in the individual's home and attached to the phone line at home. A computer is programmed by the police agency or probation officer to call the machine at set intervals, at which time the machine rings like an alarm clock. This ringing alerts the individual who is being monitored to come to the machine, press the "start" button, and blow into the breath test tube. If the individual does not respond, he is in violation of the conditions of release. At the moment the individual blows into the breath test tube, a digital photograph is taken. Then, the machine uses the phone lines to send an email to the monitoring agency's computer. The email includes the breath test results and the digital photograph. Your writer is aware of a DUI case where the use of this unit was required by the court when the accused appeared at arraignment before he had retained an attorney. Ultimately, the device was removed but not until the individual had been required, for two months, to blow into it at 9:15 a.m., 4 p.m., and 11 p.m. six days per week. On Sunday, "only" two tests were required. This individual had blown under the legal limit when arrested for DUI, but there was one prior conviction within the pevious seven years.

We can debate whether we should feel safer due to the use of this technology or frightened by the implications of pretrial restrictions of liberty to this degree before there has been any determination of guilt or innocence. However, it is certain that we will see more widespread use of such devices and technology in the future. A DUI arrest today clearly can result in restrictions on one's liberty before there is any judicial finding of guilt. These restrictions can be minimized or perhaps avoided if the advice of a competent DUI defense attorney is sought at the earliest stages of the case.