Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York DWI case raising the issue of whether a trial court can require a defendant to pay for the costs of a device that is used to measure the defendant’s alcohol intake. Ultimately, the court concluded that requiring a defendant to pay these costs is permissible; however, a court must attempt to fashion a “reasonable alternative to incarceration” for those defendants who legitimately cannot afford the costs.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was convicted of a New York driving while intoxicated offense. As a result, he was sentenced to six months’ incarceration, to be followed by a term of probation. As a condition of the defendant’s probation, the court ordered the defendant to wear and pay for a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) bracelet.
Evidently, the defendant made a few payments for the bracelet but then stopped paying. The company that monitored the bracelet eventually removed it. The defendant claimed that he had suffered an injury that prevented him from working, and that he could no longer afford to pay for the bracelet. The court held a hearing, finding the defendant in violation of a condition of his probation and sentenced him to one to three years in jail.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the court had no authority to require he pay for the SCRAM bracelet.
The Court’s Decision
The court began its analysis by noting that a sentencing court has broad discretion to impose sentencing conditions that are “reasonably necessary to ensure that the defendant will lead a law-abiding life.” By sentencing a defendant to a probationary sentence, the court explained that a trial judge is determining that the defendant and society are better served with the defendant being closely supervised rather than being incarcerated. Thus, the court held that costs that are “part and parcel” of ensuring that the defendant and the general public are safe while the defendant is on probation are permissible.
Here, the court held that requiring a defendant to pay for the SCRAM bracelet was permissible as a condition of probation. The court explained that any punitive effect the payment carried was “dwarfed” by the harms sought to be avoided by implementing the requirement. The court also explained that an alternate holding would cast into doubt a court’s ability to impose any condition requiring a probationer to expend monetary resources, which may result in fewer defendants being placed on probation.
The court added, however, that before a defendant is found to be in violation for failing to pay for a SCRAM bracelet, the court should hold a hearing to determine if there is a bona fide inability to pay. If so, the court must attempt to fashion a reasonable alternative to incarceration. However, if the defendant willfully refuses to pay, the defendant may be found in violation of their probationary sentence.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York DWI?
If you have recently been arrested for driving while intoxicated in New York, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent those who face serious criminal charges, helping them defend their freedom and uphold their rights. To learn more about how we can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.