Remote Alcohol Monitors Gain Wider Acceptance

Devices Can Detect Alcohol Traces, Tampering

Local police are keeping tabs on potential drunken drivers with new technology to keep off the road.

Police in Marion County are now using remote electronic monitors to keep intoxicated drivers from getting behind the wheel, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

Corrections officers described the new technology as "the home version of the field sobriety test."

The device, known as the Mitsubishi Electronic Monitoring System, or MEMS for short, takes the picture of the person taking the test.

In less than a minute, the machine delivers a breath alcohol result to the monitoring site. The device can even sense the difference between mouthwash and whiskey.

"If they drink and blow into the box, it will sense the alcohol," said Justin Garcia of Electronic Monitoring Services. "Sometimes they may have something in their mouth. They just brushed their teeth, used mouthwash. This box is designed to screen those things out."

Three times a day, usually before and after work, and an hour before bedtime, the machine will signal the need for a test. One hundred thirty-six people in Marion County have monitors, and several times a week, someone will test the system.

Remote alcohol monitoring is reserved only for the hard core drinker, that is, people with three or more drunk driving convictions. Police said it's a way to keep offenders off alcohol and off the road.

"They have to blow into this box three times a day. And if they know they've been drinking, this box is going to catch them. It's preventive," Garcia said.

Community corrections officials said the remote monitoring system has had a high success rate, even though those enrolled in the program have to pay for it.

Each participant pays $11 a day for a minimum of one month and up to one year in the program.

If the participant fails the test, they are typically issued a warning and offered counseling. A second violation sends the participant back to court.

Throughout Marion County, officials said less than half of enrolled participants are in varying violations of their pre-trial or post-trial agreements.