SCRAM Devices and Drunk Driving

What Does The Scram Device Do?

There are some people who, no matter how hard they try, struggle with alcohol abuse. Many times it is repeated DUI or DWI offenses that alert them of the problem. Other times they literally have to be forced into compliance with sobriety laws. For those people, the SCRAM bracelet was invented.

The secure remote alcohol monitoring bracelet (SCRAM) was designed as a way to continuously monitor whether or not someone is drinking. Unlike breathalyzers, the bracelet estimates blood alcohol content through perspiration. The bracelet is worn on the ankle and takes a regular (as frequent as every 30 minutes) reading and even alerts authorities if the bracelet is tampered with. The user is not aware when the bracelet is running tests.

SCRAM bracelets are extremely effective in monitoring the drinking behaviors of those who wear it. Because ethanol based alcohol can travel through the body quite easily, it also is easily emitted through the body’s sweat. Because it is worn all of the time, the user can continue his or her normal activities while being monitored. This gives monitoring agencies a more realistic view on what is going on, because there is nothing (like in the case of ignition interlock devices) that stops any of their behavior.

There are some drawbacks to the SCRAM bracelet. First of all, the device cannot effectively monitor the actual percentage of alcohol in the blood. This is because there are many variants that can affect a reading. For example, differences in the thickness of the skin and the amount of sweating a person does will affect a reading. Therefore, the device only measures the presence of alcohol, and can provide ranges of usage.

The SCRAM bracelet is typically used in cases where sobriety must be maintained. Most of the time it is used for repeat DUI offenders, domestic violence offenders with a history of alcohol abuse, juvenile alcohol offenders and people who are on probation or bail/bond and need to prove sobriety. In terms of DUI cases, it does not directly prevent drunk driving (like the ignition interlock device aims to do). The SCRAM bracelet works to prevent drinking completely and in theory should notify authorities before driving occurs due to regular monitoring.

Besides providing regular monitoring, the device works a little different than all other forms of alcohol tests. First of all, the user wears the waterproof ankle bracelet at all times. The bracelet weighs less than a pound and cannot be removed without notifying the monitoring agencies. The bracelet has a module on each side that acts as a sensor to monitor for alcohol vapors. The strap is electronic. It monitors for tampering, contains a memory chip to store data from the sensors, and wirelessly transmits information. If the strap is destroyed or even tampered with, authorities will be immediately notified.

The SCRAM bracelet cost about the same as an ignition interlock device, and is paid by the offender. Installation costs less than $100, and monitoring is a little less than $400 per month. In some cases, government agencies will assist with the cost of the bracelet when court ordered. Many times, offenders can gain jail credit time for wearing a SCRAM bracelet without any infractions.

One important note about the SCRAM device: tampering with it is almost as bad as drinking while wearing it. Although it is designed to be worn in any scenario, the device is very sensitive to tampering. Common activities, such as scratching or adjusting the sock must be taken with extreme care. If the device is tampered with, it will trigger more frequent passive tests until there is no suspicious activity. The device monitors for both the presence of alcohol and tampering, so a one time scratch may be explainable if there are no subsequent spikes in alcohol levels or persistent tampering.

The SCRAM bracelet is the least obstructive method of ensuring sobriety while being questionably invasive. It is a useful way for law enforcement to monitor the drinking activities of dangerous alcohol abusers, and can also be an alternative to Ignition Interlock devices. If users are able to maintain sobriety for a pre-determined amount of time while wearing the bracelet, it is usually removed and normal life is resumed.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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