Victoria Commissioners pick up tab for probation office breathalyzers

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

May 20, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.

As the cost rises to monitor breathalyzers for drunken driving offenders, Victoria County Commissioners are looking for options to find funding.

Although DWI offenders pay a $10 monthly fee for the breathalyzers as part of their bond conditions, that fee is no longer covering the costs to monitor those people, said Greg Cummings, district supervisor for the 24th Judicial District Community Supervision and Corrections Department.

The Commissioners Court approved Monday reimbursing the department for the time corrections officers spend monitoring the ignition interlocks.

Cummings said the second-time DWI offenders must use the deep-lung device in the car as part of the condition of their release. They must make a clean blow in the machine in order for the car to start.

County Judge Don Pozzi said the task is not something the corrections department is required to cover, but the department is equipped to monitor it better than any other department.

While the fee covers some of the probation officer's time, it does not cover everything, he said. The law mandates that the department can only spend 10 percent of its time on the task, Cummings said.

By August 2012, the number of cases exceeded that time limit, and now it takes up about 25 percent of a probation officer's time.

As long as the department is reimbursed, they will continue collecting the fees and supervising the ignition interlock cases, he said.

Pozzi said the costs could eventually wind up being covered by the pre-trial services director.

Commissioner Clint Ives said the law does not have enough of a bite.

"There's no judicial motivation to force them to pay," Ives said. "You can't revoke probation because they're not on probation."

The final costs fluctuates, depending on the number of people who pay the fee and those who do not.

So far, the county has not reimbursed any of the associated costs since the corrections department took it over in 2009, Cummings said.

Currently, the department is $1,350 in the red with about 40 to 45 cases.

"We're willing to do it, but it has to be paid for, and it can't come from our funding," Cummings said.



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