We're Suing Wyoming to Challenge the 24/7 Program in Teton County

For people who have been arrested but not convicted, the 24/7 program and its fees looks like a criminal sentence.

Earlier today, we filed a federal lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s 24/7 Sobriety Program and its application in Teton County.

In the compaint, we assert that the daily warrantless searches are constitutional violations when applied to people who haven’t yet been convicted of a crime.

The lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court of Wyoming on behalf of two individuals – Alfredo Guillermo Sanchez and David Christopher “Chris” Ball, previous participants 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. All other pretrial participants of the program are also included in the lawsuit.

Originally created by a 2014 state law, Wyoming’s 24/7 Sobriety Program allows a judge to mandate a breathalyzer test twice a day, every day, for those awaiting trial on alcohol charges. 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 amendment of the law in 2019.

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. 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, the 24/7 program violates:

  • The Fourth Amendment for potentially unreasonable searches and seizures
  • The Fourteenth Amendment for depriving participants of liberty through sometimes repeated pretrial arrests potentially without due process of law
  • The Eighth Amendment for potentially depriving participants of reasonable bail and bail conditions

Additionally, any failed test or late arrival by 30 minutes or more or being late three times in Teton County leads to immediate arrest – though no rule, regulation or statute authorizes a sheriff in Wyoming to arrest a person without a warrant for merely being late. Program participants are also charged a $30 enrollment fee and pay $2 per breath test, which over the span of several weeks and months can amount to hundreds of dollars.

For people who have been arrested but not convicted, the 24/7 program and its fees looks like a criminal sentence.

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.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Wyoming and Darold W. Killmer with Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, with support from Lauren McLane with the Defender Aid Clinic at the University of Wyoming College of Law.

A copy of the complaint is below.