ACLU of Wyoming Files Suit Against Teton County Sobriety Program
The ACLU of Wyoming has filed a federal lawsuit against Wyoming’s 24/7 Sobriety Program and its application in Teton County.
Their argument against the program is that it allows for warrantless searches and is unconstitutional when applied to people who haven’t yet been convicted of a crime.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Alfredo Guillermo Sanchez and David Christopher Ball, 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.
Wyoming’s Sobriety Program allows a judge to require a breathalyzer test twice a day for those awaiting trial on alcohol charges and was created in 2014, was amended in 2019, and people are required to pay $2 per test.
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 amendments to the law in 2019.
Janna Farley, Communications Director for the ACLU of Wyoming, said they filed the lawsuit on behalf of the two people involved, as well as other people who have also been affected by the program.
Farley said the program arrests people who turn up late when getting tested, which can negatively impact people in a variety of ways by putting their job or family in jeopardy.
Stephanie Amiotte, ACLU of Wyoming legal director, said:
"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," Amiotte said. "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."
Specifically, they allege that the 24/7 program violates the Fourth Amendment, for unreasonable searches and seizures, the 14th amendment for depriving participants of liberty through sometimes repeated pretrial arrests potentially without due process of law, and the Eighth Amendment for depriving participants of reasonable bail and bail conditions.
“For people who have been arrested but not convicted, the 24/7 program and its fees looks like a criminal sentence," Amiotte said. "Unlawful search and seizure does nothing to improve public safety. Detaining people for running late, often for circumstances beyond their control like heavy traffic or a mistake like oversleeping due to late work hours, does nothing to improve public safety. It’s simply an incredibly punitive pretrial release condition, especially for first-time suspected offenders, that wreaks havoc on their families and jobs and their mental, physical and emotional health."