California judges frequently order those who have been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in this state to wear an ankle bracelet – sometimes called a “SCRAM” bracelet – that monitors a person’s sweat in order to detect alcohol in the bloodstream.
SCRAM is an acronym for “Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor.” How do SCRAM devices work? Who is required to wear one? What penalties can be imposed if someone tampers with a SCRAM bracelet – or if the device detects alcohol consumption? Can drunk driving lawyers help?
WHAT IS A SCRAM BRACELET AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
A SCRAM bracelet is a tamper-resistant device that works by detecting any alcohol vapor that is released through sweat. The bracelet continually monitors the wearer and transmits data reports several times a day to a monitoring location.
A SCRAM bracelet analyzes a person’s evaporating sweat to determine if that person is consuming or has recently consumed alcohol.
When there is alcohol in someone’s blood, trace amounts are released through saliva, breath, and sweat. SCRAM bracelets and breathalyzers work on the same basic principle to determine if – and how much – alcohol is in someone’s blood.
WHO MAY HAVE TO WEAR A SCRAM BRACELET?
When a California judge orders a convicted DUI offender to abstain from alcohol consumption, the offender may be ordered to wear a “SCRAM” bracelet to monitor his or her compliance.
The order to wear a SCRAM device is an alternative to incarceration. It’s frequently a condition of probation for offenders who are convicted of driving under the influence or other crimes – such as disorderly conduct or domestic abuse – that involved alcohol and/or alcohol abuse.
If the SCRAM bracelet is tampered with or if the person wearing it consumes alcohol, a report is transmitted to a SCRAM monitoring location, and the court is informed of the violation.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED WHEN A SCRAM BRACELET IS ORDERED?
What factors will a judge consider when ordering a convicted DUI offender to wear a SCRAM bracelet? Judges take into account the severity and details of the DUI conviction, any prior DUI convictions, and the extent of the individual’s alcohol abuse or addiction issues.
Because the aim of a SCRAM device is rehabilitation – to help the offender deal with alcohol abuse or addiction – a SCRAM bracelet is seldom ordered for a first DUI offense. Typically, it’s required only for those with abuse or addiction issues and/or prior DUI convictions.
The order to wear a SCRAM device is not usually linked to house arrest. Most DUI probationers who wear a SCRAM bracelet are not under house arrest and are not being monitored for that reason. Typically, they also work or attend school as a condition of DUI probation.
The convicted DUI offender pays both a setup charge and a daily fee for the bracelet unless he or she can prove a financial hardship.
ARE SCRAM BRACELETS ALWAYS RELIABLE?
If you are ordered to wear a SCRAM bracelet as part of a DUI sentence, and if you are subsequently accused of a violation – consuming alcohol or tampering with the bracelet – you must contact an experienced Orange County DUI attorney immediately.
A SCRAM bracelet could return a false reading for one of several reasons. Something you eat or drink, a cleaning fluid you work with, or a medicine you take could be misidentified as alcohol. The device might also malfunction electronically or be subject to several kinds of interference.
A SCRAM device might also create a false reading simply because the person wearing it is sweating profusely – always a possibility in Southern California in the summertime – or because the device has been submerged, dropped, or tampered with on purpose.
Additionally – let’s say that you’re with friends at an office party or with family members on a holiday – if alcohol is spilled on your skin or clothes for any reason, the device will presume that you’re drinking. You will very much need a good DUI lawyer’s help.
WHAT IF YOU’RE ACCUSED OF A PROBATION VIOLATION?
If you are accused of violating the terms of DUI probation, a “VOP” (violation of probation) hearing will be scheduled. A judge could order stricter conditions of probation or completely revoke your probation – and send you to jail.
When a VOP hearing is triggered by an alleged SCRAM violation for alcohol consumption or device tampering, you must be represented by a California DUI lawyer who has substantial experience with SCRAM-related violation of probation cases.
Your attorney will investigate what happened and may challenge the accuracy of the SCRAM device and the data it provides.
If someone spilled alcohol on you, if you use over-the-counter or prescription medicines, or if you know why a false reading happened, that’s the first thing that you should tell your attorney.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AT A VOP HEARING?
Anyone who is on DUI probation has been convicted and sentenced already, so at VOP hearings, the state does not need to prove a charge “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The state needs only to persuade a judge with a “preponderance of the evidence” that probation has been violated.
Additionally, at VOP hearings, there is no right to a jury trial. A judge determines guilt or innocence. Probationers do, however, have the right to be represented by an attorney, to present evidence, and to call and cross-examine witnesses.
If your defense against an alleged SCRAM violation is that the SCRAM bracelet is in some way defective or that the data from the device is inaccurate, your lawyer may recommend asking an expert witness to testify regarding the reliability and limitations of SCRAM devices.
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE TO PROBATION?
If you are on DUI probation in Southern California, comply with its conditions. Jail is the alternative.
If you are accused of violating DUI probation – for a SCRAM violation or for any reason, you must be represented by an experienced Orange County DUI attorney, and you must contact that attorney as soon as you’ve been charged with violating your probation.
HOW WILL A DUI ATTORNEY FIGHT ON YOUR BEHALF?
And if you are charged with driving under the influence, it is imperative to contact a Southern California DUI defense lawyer immediately.
In some cases, DUI lawyers are able to have a DUI charge reduced or dismissed, but in every case, your attorney will fight aggressively for the best possible result.
A good attorney’s help is your right, but if you are charged in California with DUI or with a DUI probation violation, it’s up to you to take the first step – and make the call to an attorney as quickly as possible.