by Ave Mince-Didier
Alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelets (also called SCRAM bracelets for “Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring”) provide a way for courts to oversee people who have been ordered to not drink alcohol. Made famous by celebrities convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), SCRAM bracelets are increasingly ordered by courts for people in all sorts of court cases to wear.
For more information on driving under the influence, see DUI: Laws Penalties & Sentencing, DUI Laws & Penalties by State, and Felony DUI: Alcohol.
Court-Ordered Alcohol Monitoring
In addition to DUI cases, courts also order alcohol monitoring for parents in family court, people accused or convicted of domestic violence while drinking, children under the age of 21 who are caught drinking, and drug addicts who also use alcohol.
In criminal cases, the court orders the defendant to wear the bracelet for a set period of time, often 60 or 90 days, but sometimes for as long as a year, as a term of probation or parole. During that time, the bracelet cannot be removed. SCRAM bracelets are the product of a private company, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, and are designed with several anti-tampering features. If the defendant tampers with the device or tests positive for alcohol, the court may terminate probation or parole and the defendant may end up in a treatment facility, jail, or prison.
How Does SCRAM Work?
SCRAM bracelets work by monitoring the wearer’s perspiration every 30 minutes. The device is similar to a Breathalyzer by deterining the level of alcohol, if any, in the person’s body. Results are uploaded via modem and monitored by the private company. If the defendant tests positive for alcohol, the company reports it to the court. Courts report that most defendants successfully complete alcohol monitoring without incident. Preliminary studies have shown that wearing a SCRAM bracelet for at least 90 days, when coupled with alcohol treatment, can reduce the risk that a person convicted of driving under the influence will reoffend.
Are SCRAM Bracelets Accurate?
Generally, courts have decided that SCRAM bracelets are scientifically sound and that evidence of alcohol consumption and tampering are reliable enough to be admitted into court proceedings. A defendant would probably have to have some evidence that the device was malfunctioning in order to successfully challenge SCRAM results.
Although a defendant could try to argue that SCRAM is an invasion of privacy, alcohol monitoring is usually imposed as a condition of probation or parole and, therefore, as an alternative to incarceration. It would be difficult to claim that alcohol monitoring is a greater civil liberties violation that jail or prison. However, courts cannot order alcohol monitoring without evidence that the person has some sort of drinking problem.
How Much Do SCRAM Bracelets Cost?
Alcohol monitoring can be pricey. Usually, defendants are charged a one-time installation fee ($50 to $100) and a daily monitoring fee (around $10 to $15), so monthly costs after installation can be as high as $450.
A Word on Legal Assistance
If you are ordered to wear a SCRAM bracelet as a condition of parole or probation, you should talk to a local criminal defense attorney about your case. An attorney can explain the legal risks and benefits of alcohol monitoring. If you are charged with a SCRAM violation,you need an attorney who understands how the technology works and how to challenge SCRAM evidence in court. Whenever you are charged with a criminal offense, the best defense is to consult an experienced attorney about the matter.