SCRAM bracelets are an alternative to incarceration if you are facing charges for a DWI or related alcohol offenses. These bracelets are not only intrusive, but they are expensive to maintain, and in some cases, can record inaccuracies that land you further into trouble with the law.
Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer helps you understand the role of SCRAM bracelets, how they work, possible violations, and defenses you can use in case of a violation.
Through the entire process, we walk with you to ensure you are well informed and prepared to adapt to living with a SCRAM bracelet for the court-prescribed period.
An Overview of the SCRAM Bracelet
Alcohol consumption is part of American culture, but it is not with adverse effects. With more people committing alcohol-related offenses, including driving while intoxicated, intoxicated assault and manslaughter, and domestic violence while intoxicated, alcohol consumption has become a problem that the criminal justice system seeks to solve.
The problem with alcohol consumption intensifies as its users go on to become repeat offenders, thus posing a great risk to themselves and society. While courts have made significant strides in facilitating these offenders' rehabilitation through court-ordered alcohol programs, they still have difficulties determining whether the offender consumes alcohol outside the program.
In an attempt to follow up on the offender's alcohol consumption, courts traditionally ordered offenders to submit regular tests to a court-designated area, random screening for alcohol or installing alcohol-monitoring equipment in the offender’s home.
These testing mechanisms failed to detect low alcohol consumption levels and were not as consistent in monitoring offenders, which encouraged offenders to continue drinking.
The introduction of Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) has eliminated the need for courts to order constant in-person monitoring sessions or install monitoring devices in your home.
Courts now order offenders (especially repeat offenders) to wear SCRAM bracelets on their ankles for 24-hour monitoring. The offender must wear the bracelet for a period that depends on the offense and whether the court uses SCRAM monitoring as a probation or parole condition. It could be as short as 30 days to more than a year.
Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. makes SCRAM bracelets and is responsible for analyzing alerts from devices in use. The company first introduced SCRAM devices in 2003 and has since been responsible for producing and distributing SCRAM devices.
These devices are tested for accuracy and efficiency to reduce the possibility of false positives. They have been the subject of research to examine their effectiveness both as alcohol monitoring devices and as a deterrent for recidivism among DWI offenders.
SCRAM bracelets determine the alcohol consumption level by measuring the alcohol content in your sweat. The science behind these devices was discovered in the 1930s following studies of alcohol consumption, absorption, and elimination from the body.
These studies analyzed how the body eliminates alcohol through blood, sweat, urine, and breath. Sweat carries the smallest alcohol concentration at 1%, but it is enough to notify the court of an offender's alcohol consumption.
The device monitors you continuously at intervals of 30 minutes to one hour and submits a report every 24 hours. It relies on the continuous elimination of alcohol from the time of absorption to elimination from an offender’s body.
While the device cannot determine the exact level of alcohol consumption, it will track the progressive increase and decrease in your system through your sweat samples.
These consistent and small amounts of alcohol tested every thirty minutes produce a graph of alcohol consumption by the offender. Your supervising agency will rely on this graph to determine if you consume alcohol.
SCRAM bracelet converts the transdermal sample into an electrical signal and submits this signal for analysis. If the report indicates that you have consumed alcohol, then the monitoring agency will report to the supervising agency (which could lead to legal action against you).
In most cases, the monitoring agency will report alcohol if it accumulates to .02%. However, the information about alcohol below that limit will still be available should the supervising agency request it.
SCRAM Bracelet Applications
Recidivism in alcohol-related offenses is a problem that the criminal justice system struggles to maintain a safe society. People with an alcohol use disorder often end up recommitting alcohol-related offenses, which places pressure on the court system in terms of caseload, congestion in jails and prisons, and the cost of monitoring and correcting these offenders.
Courts utilize SCRAM bracelets in cases where the offender must abstain from alcohol. They are mostly used in criminal courts for offenses related to alcohol consumption, including DWI offenses. Family courts also implement these devices for child custody and domestic violence cases, where the offender becomes violent upon alcohol consumption.
The judge could order a SCRAM device as a condition of pretrial release. In this case, the judge will only approve bail if you agree to wear a SCRAM device. As a pretrial release condition, the SCRAM bracelet applies in cases where the court deems a defendant as a high-risk offender who needs to abstain from alcohol. SCRAM devices offer a cost-effective monitoring program while reducing the population pressure in jails and prisons.
The judge might order the device if you are an underage driver arrested for a DWI offense or as a condition of probation to enforce alcohol abstinence.
In addition to the requirement to wear a SCRAM device during your probation, the court might require you to attend alcohol rehabilitation classes to prevent the risk of reoffending as soon as you complete probation.
As a first time offender, you are not likely to receive a SCRAM device on your probation. However, if you show signs of alcohol use disorder or are a high-risk repeat offender, the court will mandate the use of the SCRAM bracelet.
In some cases, courts require offenders released on early parole to wear a SCRAM device to monitor alcohol consumption. The SCRAM device could have a GPS included to monitor your location all the time.
You should be aware that the court expects you to pay for all the costs related to the SCRAM bracelet’s installation and maintenance. The installation cost for a SCRAM bracelet varies between $50 and $100 depending on the company installing it. The cost also varies depending on additional features that the bracelet has, such as a GPS.
You will have to pay a daily monitoring fee of $10 to $12 and the installation fee. These costs can add up quickly and have a significant effect on your income. However, the court and proponents of an offender-pays system argue that the offenders could buy alcohol; therefore, financing their monitoring should not present challenges.
While SCRAM devices are ideal in enforcing alcohol abstinence among offenders, they are not ideal for everyone. Before you agree to wear the device as a condition of pretrial release or probation, you have to notify your attorney of existing medical conditions. These conditions require a consultation with your doctor to determine whether it is safe to wear the bracelet. They include:
- Allergic reactions to metal
- Circulation problems
- Deep Vein thrombosis
- Severe dermatitis (particularly around the leg or ankle)
- You have a history of swelling.
You should contact your supervising agency if you develop the following complications upon wearing the device (do not attempt to remove the bracelet yourself as it will count as a violation):
- Severe irritation
- Open wounds or sores
Medical devices such as pacemakers and procedures such as CT and MRI scans could also affect the device. Therefore, you must first consult with your health care provider and request a temporary removal.
However, in an emergency where the device places your life at direct risk, you should cut the strap then notify your supervising agent and attorney.
Features of SCRAM Bracelets
The effectiveness of SCRAM devices relies on in-built features for continuous monitoring. It has a significant strength over other alcohol monitoring devices since it allows continued monitoring of the offender regardless of the location.
It relies on transdermal sweat, which tends to last longer and provide accurate results compared to breath tests. Here are some of the features of SCRAM bracelets:
- SCRAM device is both water and tamper-resistant, allowing offenders to wear it throughout the day, including shower time. However, it is not waterproof. Its wearers should not submerge it in water. For example, during a bath or swimming, submerging the device in water counts as a violation of your probation or parole terms.
- The device has an electrochemical sensor connected to a strap. The sensor captures your perspiration and converts it into an electrical signal to measure your body’s alcohol content.
- The device features a tamper clip, temperature sensor, obstruction sensor, and communication monitoring to prevent tampering. Interfering with the device in any way will result in a report of a violation. For instance, the obstruction sensor sends signals to measure the distance between the skin and the device. If you place an object between the sensor and your leg, the device will detect the obstruction and report tampering to the supervising agency.
- The bracelet uses a radio frequency signal to transmit testing results in every 24-hours. During the transmission period, the wearer must be close to a base station at a specific time every day.
- The device can detect environmental alcohol, including that in products such as hand sanitizers and cleaners. However, continuous monitoring allows the results to form a graph from which the data analysts can derive more accurate conclusions.
- SCRAM bracelets have analog and digital components for ensuring the effectiveness of the device. The analog component screens for ethyl alcohol from the air around the offender’s skin. Once the analog component analyses and measures the transdermal sample, it sends the digital component results. This digital component stores the readings and anti-circumvention features then sends the recorded information at the scheduled times.
- The device has a modem, which must be connected to a phone line to transmit SCRAM data to the SCRAM central server, which Alcohol Monitoring Systems monitor.
Depending on the type of SCRAM device, it could have other features, including a GPS, a camera.
Analysis and Reporting of SCRAM Data
The results from the SCRAM device are in their raw form when transmitted from the device to the central server. Data analysts must examine this information and derive sensible conclusions to determine your compliance with SCRAM regulations.
Every SCRAM wearer must stand within thirty feet of a SCRAM modem and a base station for the bracelet to transmit data to the monitoring agency. Failure to do so will be a violation of your bond, probation, or parole terms.
The data from the device does not go directly to the supervising agency but to the central server. Qualified data analysts from Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. retrieve and analyze these readings then report to the supervising agency.
The analysis involved determining the following:
- Whether the offender has consumed alcohol
- The amount of alcohol detected.
- Environmental interference
- Attempts to tamper with or circumvent the device
The AMS will report to the supervising agency if the analysts detect a true alcohol reading (showing that you have consumed alcohol). They will likewise provide all the records of the data your device transmits for access to the supervising agency. The supervising agency could review this data and choose to report a violation, even over a minor issue.
Usually, analysts rely on the type of curve your alcohol readings generate. A true alcohol curve is gradual and consistent, rising steadily after consumption, and declining gradually as the body eliminates the alcohol.
Curves from environmental interference tend to be shorter and steeper, thus distinguishable from true alcohol curves that last longer and gradually. A graph showing environmental interference will typically spike and fall suddenly.
Apart from alcohol readings, the device also sends alerts on attempts to tamper with or circumvent it. These alerts could be triggered as follows:
- The tamper clip or strap sends an alert if the strap or clip is damaged, removed, or destroyed.
- The obstruction sensor consistently sends an infrared signal, which measures the distance between the bracelet and your leg. The device will generate a tamper alert if it detects that you have inserted materials between the bracelet and your leg. Every infrared reading will be analyzed against the baseline readings taken when you first received the device.
- The device sends temperature information and compares these readings to the baseline ones. A temperature lower than the baseline temperature, coupled with significant changes in the distance between the leg and the device, will indicate removing the device or an obstruction.
- The device will also send an alert if you fail to connect the modem for data transmission within 24 hours, and you fail to upload this information within 48 hours.
SCRAM Bracelet Violations
SCRAM devices are foolproof. You cannot tamper with the device and expect the monitoring agency will miss it.
SCRAM violations are serious offenses that could land you in jail or prison or compel the court to impose stricter probation or parole terms.
The common SCRAM bracelet violations include:
- Blocking the sensor
- Intentionally exposing the sensor to alcohol or alcohol-based substances to mask your consumption.
- Removing the device
- Submerging the device in water
- Using alcohol-based products such as cleaning agents, industrial products and personal care products
- Failure to observe communication time
- Failing to pay for the device
- Failure to show up for scheduled appointments (related to the SCRAM bracelet)
The consequences of violating SCRAM bracelet requirements will vary depending on the type of violation. However, you can expect one or more of these consequences:
- The court could impose the original penalties including incarceration and fines
- Loss of the privileges you had through probation or parole
- Loss of driving privileges
- Imposition of mandatory
In most cases, the supervising agency will not impose harsh penalties upon the first violation. However, subsequent violations attract stiffer consequences, including termination of your probation or parole.
You should also note that the supervising agency could report a violation of minor issues such as a tamper alert. Since such a risk exists, you need to be careful during this period, and hire an attorney should a problem arise.
SCRAM False-Positive Results
People have found themselves locked up despite their earnest efforts to abstain from alcohol or avoid tampering with the device. SCRAM devices are mostly accurate in measuring alcohol consumption and detecting attempts to tamper with the device.
However, they could also detect obstructions and environmental interferences that are outside the control of the defendant.
For instance, if you are walking and a sock is stuck under the device, the bracelet will record a tamper alert. Your supervising agent could summon you to appear in court and terminate your probation or impose penalties for something that you did not do.
SCRAM bracelets also have the limitation of measuring different alcohol sources, which could be in different everyday products.
In some cases, people with medical conditions could produce alcohol, leading to false-positive results.
While it might take a higher amount of alcohol to trigger a true alcohol consumption curve, it could happen. And since probation officers care more about the results from your device than the science behind these results, they will consider it a violation and impose the penalties they see fit.
Another shortcoming of SCRAM devices is their inability to take other factors such as the wearer's metabolism rates. Different people metabolize alcohol at different rates.
Manufacturers and distributors of SCRAM devices say that their devices are more than 99% accurate. However, you could be one of the unlucky statistics who end up in jail or with stiffer penalties due to a false positive.
If your device reports a false positive and you have not been drinking, the most important thing you can do is to contact your defense attorney. Your attorney can consult experts to have them present evidence about the inaccuracies of these devices.
In addition, he or she can investigate the type of graphs your results produce and interpret these results from a scientific point of view.
How to Prevent a False Positive
Most people on SCRAM devices feel privileged to have secured their freedom to work, go to school, and be with family. As a result, more than 99% of these individuals complete their probation period without consuming alcohol.
However, environmental alcohol and some products you could use can trigger alcohol alerts even if you have genuinely been abstaining from alcohol.
You can reduce the risk of a false-positive by:
- Using alcohol-free products including personal care products
- Avoid food prepared using alcohol.
- Avoid areas that could trigger a false positive such as wearing rubber gloves when using a cleaning product with alcohol, avoid places that could emit alcohol vapors such as newly painted walls.
- Avoid immersing your device in water. If you must take a bath, place your foot outside the tub.
- Consider covering the bracelet with a sweatband if you are engaging in vigorous exercise.
Find a DWI Attorney Near Me
While SCRAM devices are an effective tool for the criminal justice system to enforce alcohol abstinence amongst offenders, it can be frustrating for you. A SCRAM device could be your path to freedom, but it could lead you back to jail or prison quickly if you are unlucky.
Understanding how the device works, the terms of having one, the costs, and the possible violation could help you enjoy a violation-free SCRAM-monitored probation or parole.
Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer helps clients who have a court order to have a SCRAM bracelet. We guide you through the installation requirements, the device’s cost, how you can avoid SCRAM violations, and your responsibilities when wearing the device.
In addition, we defend you if you are charged with a SCRAM violation. We understand that these devices can and do make mistakes. We examine the data presented to the supervising agency and source the same data from the AMS. We leave nothing to chance.
Do you have any questions about SCRAM Bracelets in Texas? Contact us today at 817-470-2128 for your free consultation.