HOPE: new drug testing program for probationers

LIHU‘E — Hawai‘i Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Randal Valenciano warned six felony probationers last week that positive testing for drug use would result in mandatory jail time.

The probationers are the first offenders to enter the Fifth Circuit’s new Hawai‘i Opportunity Probation with Enforcement program, or HOPE Probation. From now on, said Valenciano, anyone who tests positive for drugs or misses an appointment with their probation officer will automatically go to jail.

“In short, sex offenders, domestic violence and drug offenders in HOPE are being monitored and supervised closer and more frequently than ever before, and held to a higher level of accountability,” Valenciano said Wednesday. “HOPE will keep offenders out of prison, save taxpayer dollars and increase public safety.”

After the initial “warning hearing,” the probationers will have to call the court each morning to learn whether they must report for a random drug test that same day. Valenciano said that failure to make the daily telephone call would result in the immediate issuance of a bench warrant.

The program was developed by the Hawai‘i State Judiciary. The idea of conducting a drug test on the same day of the telephone call would not give probationers enough time to detoxify from when they last used a drug to evade its detection on the tests.

Probationer “no-shows” who fail to appear for a drug test would be tracked down by the police. Violators who turn themselves in will serve less time than no-shows, but would still serve jail time.

The goal, according to the Judiciary, is to have 20 high-risk probationers in the HOPE program. Warning hearings and HOPE-related motions will be handled by Judges Valenciano and Kathleen Watanabe in addition to their regular caseloads.

Offenders placed in HOPE face swift and certain jail time for violating probation.

The amount of jail time that must be served will be decided by the judge based on the circumstances involving the violation and can range from a few days to months.

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