Since 2010, about 30 people facing criminal charges involving alcohol have achieved a better outcome by participating in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring programs. These cases have involved diverse factual situations and charges ranging from repeated instances of mischief to impaired driving causing death to murder. We believe there are many more cases in Canada where our alcohol monitoring programs can help.
Alcohol monitoring can help in a number of ways. The first thing that may come to mind for many people is that monitoring would be used in combination with a condition that the person abstain from consuming alcohol. This is certainly one way that monitoring can be used, but there are others which may not be as immediately apparent.
Evidence of sobriety
For example, in making submissions in support of a shorter jail sentence or a conditional sentence that can be served in the community, we often hear defence counsel advise the court that their client has been sober for some period of time. In many cases, the person’s self-report is the only evidence available to support this submission. Imagine if defence counsel could say to the court, “my client has been tested every thirty minutes, 24/7, for the past 6 months, and I have a report showing that every one of those tests was negative for alcohol consumption.” This is exactly what participating in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring program can make possible.
A person with a history of criminal charges associated with alcohol can leave the court in a quandary when considering an application for bail or a proposal for a conditional sentence. The court may see prohibiting the person from consuming alcohol as the only way to reduce the risk that they will get into trouble in the community, but may lack confidence that they will be able to abstain. In such cases, including participation in RSC’s continuous alcohol monitoring program as part of the plan of supervision can tip the balance in favour of the person being released or allowed to serve their sentence in the community. This is because the monitoring (a) can help the person abstain, because they know that, if they drink, it will be reported and (b) gives the court the comfort of knowing that, if the person does begin to drink, they won’t be able to do so repeatedly before anyone knows about it, because it will be detected and reported the first time they drink.
In some cases, the court’s quandary is even more difficult, because the court is concerned that the person simply won’t be able to abstain from consuming alcohol and that a court order requiring them to abstain will just lead to inevitable breach charges. The court may then be left with the impression that it has only two options, neither of which seems to satisfactorily serve the interests of justice – to keep the person in jail or to let them be in the community without a requirement that they abstain from alcohol. This is where RSC’s Soberleave program can help. With Soberleave, we combine alcohol monitoring with location monitoring, enabling a third option – the person who is dependent on alcohol can consume it, but to control the risk that creates, they are only permitted to consume alcohol at home and must be alcohol-free when outside the home.
Real Life Examples
While the number of cases in which RSC alcohol monitoring programs is still relatively small, the human stories involved have been quite profound. For example, in our very first case, a man with a history of alcohol-related offences, including assaults, mischief, and breaches, had been denied bail due to concerns that “if left unchecked and simply on the strength of a promise, he would lapse back to alcohol abuse” and commit more offences. With a new plan that included participation in RSC’s SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring program, he was granted pre-trial release. This allowed him to be with his wife and children instead of in jail while awaiting trial, while ensuring that if he began to drink, the court would know.
Another young man faced charges of aggravated assault and attempted murder arising from multiple incidents during which he was intoxicated. The court noted that when he was intoxicated and experiencing jealousy, he lost control. His lawyers helped him bring together a plan of supervision that included residential treatment and dual GPS/alcohol monitoring, which satisfied the court that he could be released on bail so that he could get the help he needed for his addictions and mental health issues while awaiting trial, while ensuring detection if he did not comply with his conditions.
In another case, a man charged with impaired driving, and a record that included four previous convictions for impaired driving and convictions for refusing to provide a breath sample and driving while prohibited, had been denied bail. With a new plan that included participation in RSC’s SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring program, he was granted pre-trial release. At his sentencing, the record of eight months sobriety he had established through the CAM program’s 48 tests per day helped him obtain a conditional sentence. His wife told the court that the program had helped him because he knew he could no longer hide his drinking, which led to him not drinking and to dramatic improvements in his relationships with her and their children.
These are just a few examples. In every case involving alcohol abuse and serious criminal charges, everyone involved is experiencing very difficult challenges, including the accused, the victim, their families, and the professionals trying to support them and see that the interests of justice are served. In many cases, alcohol monitoring may be able to help contribute to better outcomes.
RSC’s alcohol monitoring programs include continuous alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM ankle bracelet with tests every 30 minutes 24/7, and remote breath testing on a schedule of multiple tests per day.