An overwhelming majority of repeat drunk drivers in Lancaster County now wearing alcohol-detection bracelets are not continuing to drink.
Most convicted drunk drivers charged with a new DUI in Lancaster County are required to wear SCRAM bracelets, which monitor an offender’s alcohol intake.
The DUI Repeat Offender Program (DROP), which kicked into full gear in January 2015, has “life-saving” potential, District Attorney Craig Stedman says.
Stedman pushed for reform after a number of DUI-involved fatal crashes here caused by repeat intoxicated drivers.
Last year, more than 300 individuals in the program wore a SCRAM bracelet fastened to their ankles, according to data recently released by the Lancaster County Bail Administration office in cooperation with Vigilnet America, which supplies and monitors the bracelets.
Only 19 of those individuals violated their supervision by consuming alcohol. Thirty-one others violated by tampering with the bracelet: mainly, trying to remove it.
Altogether, defendants were compliant on 99.6 percent of days they were on supervision – a combined 31,337 sober days, according to the data.
Local officials agree that’s a huge success when considering the defendants are an at-risk group.
“They are a very dangerous population: repeat DUI offenders,” said Dan Scarberry, Lancaster County’s assistant district court administrator, whose department oversees the DROP program.
Repeat offenders make up about 20 percent of the entire DUI caseload in Lancaster County. About 1,700 DUI charges are filed here each year, on average.
Previously, most repeat offenders had little or no supervision until they were sentenced in Lancaster County Court – in some cases, more than a year after they were charged.
“All that time,” Scarberry said, “they were unsupervised.”
Under DROP, defendants are tagged with the bracelet as a bail condition after a preliminary arraignment, usually within days of a charge being filed.
Currently, there are 145 people in DROP with pending DUI cases wearing SCRAM bracelets, which electronically store data regarding alcohol use and potential tampering of the units.
Scarberry’s office receives morning reports from Vigilnet regarding the clients and any violations in the previous day.
If there is a violation, a petition is filed with a judge within 48 business hours to have the defendant’s bail revoked and a bench warrant issued. At a hearing, a Lancaster County judge rules on ramifications.
“It allows for an immediate consequence to the offender and forces them to comply the moment they are given the bracelet,” Stedman said.
Defendants pay $12 a day for the monitoring and rental costs, and will wear the bracelet until their case is resolved – unless a Lancaster County judge grants an exception. They are also required to abide by an 11 p.m. curfew while under SCRAM.
Vigilnet’s equipment rental and monitoring fees are paid by the defendants.
“This is a 100 percent defendant-paid program with no cost to the taxpayers of Lancaster County,” Scarberry said.
The average SCRAM client wore the bracelet last year for about 100 days, according to the Bail Administrative office data.
The implementation of SCRAM was a collaborative effort that started with Assistant District Attorney Ande Gonzalez bringing the idea to Stedman, borrowing from a York County example and information at a PennDOT conference.
The district attorney’s office then teamed with County Judge Joseph Madenspacher, district judges, defense lawyers, and Scarberry in getting the program up and running.
Recent Lancaster County Cases Involving Repeat DUI Drivers
- Thomas Gallagher Jr. was driving on a suspended license – from a prior DUI – when he caused a crash in West Lampeter Township in July 2014 that killed a recent high-school graduate.
- Carlos R. Garcia was drunk and speeding on a DUI-related suspended license — with a 7-year-old boy in the car — during a Lancaster city crash in 2014 that killed a York woman and seriously injured her mother.
- Leston Daugherty had a prior DUI conviction, and a blood-alcohol level more than triple Pennsylvania’s legal limit for drivers, when he caused a 2012 crash in Mount Joy that killed a 72-year-old woman.
- George Nichols Sr. already had at least three prior DUI convictions when he caused a crash on New Year’s Eve 2011 in Reamstown that killed two people and critically injured another.
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