How are SCRAM Alcohol Monitoring Systems Being Used?

SCRAM Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring in U.S. Court Systems

“Logically, there are three ways to prevent alcohol-impaired driving by known offenders: (a) prevent all driving, (b) prevent all driving after drinking, or (c) prevent all drinking.” – National Highway Traffic Safety Association, Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring Case Studies, 2012

Using SCRAM for Colorado DUI Offenders

SCRAM transdermal alcohol monitor systems—the alcohol-detection ankle bracelets with all its attached technology—prevent drinking. Without drinking, there is no drinking and driving. “Transdermal alcohol monitoring” is a method used by law enforcement, judicial officers, DUI lawyers, health care professionals and scientists to monitor alcohol use through the skin. Colorado DUI attorneys can plea for the use of a SCRAM alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet as a condition of release, and in some instances, as an alternative to prison.

SCRAM is a brand name for a continuous alcohol monitoring system (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring). The Littleton, Colorado-based company is a pioneer and leader in transdermal alcohol monitoring systems being used within the American judicial system. The competing company, BI Incorporated, is likewise global, and sells “TAD” alcohol monitoring units. BI has a corporate office in Boulder, Colorado and it is a subsidiary of The Geo Group, Inc., a leading international provider of correctional facility needs. (Note: The Geo Group has a Correctional division and Community division, thus the Colorado Felony DUI bill will benefit the company whether prison or alcohol-monitoring is court ordered, and even more so if both are ordered.)

SCRAM alcohol-monitoring devices are more widely used across the United States compared to BI TAD. Since both the companies have a strong Colorado presence and use of these alcohol-monitoring systems saves taxpayer money, utilizing the alcohol-monitoring system efficiencies to reduce DUI offenses could be beneficial for Colorado public safety, economy, and Colorado taxpayers.

How does an alcohol-monitoring bracelet work?

Simply put, the SCRAM ankle bracelet is a gadget that touches the skin, senses alcohol, and is capable of sending data. Transdermal means through the skin, and the ankle unit detects the alcohol being emitted from the skin. A separate unit, similar to home Wi-Fi routers common today, helps transmit the information. Officials trained in using SCRAM monitor units read and interpret the received graphical data, then monitor the graphs for a SCRAM violation or false positive. A DUI attorney can argue a false positive with the court.

How does an alcohol-monitoring bracelet work to stop drinking?

The SCRAM monitoring official is alerted to even small amounts of alcohol being absorbed in the skin. A SCRAM violation carries an immediate threat of prison for the DUI offender, and your DUI attorney should be immediately advised of any SCRAM violations.

SCRAM monitor false positives are possible, and although DUI attorneys know how to defend a SCRAM violation, the immediate threat of prison combined with the daily physical reminder of being monitored by police-related officials is enough to keep first-time offenders from violating SCRAM terms. When repeat DUI offenders are wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet, the SCRAM unit in combination with professional mental health services and community support services can make a long-term difference and help repeat DUI offenders conquer alcohol dependencies.

Using SCRAM Alcohol Monitoring Bracelets in the U.S. Court System

DUI lawyers build a case to use the alcohol monitoring “ankle bracelet” for DUI offenders as an alternative to prison, a condition of pretrial release, and as conditional terms for parole and probation. The alcohol-sensing ankle bracelet is used in many states for alcohol-related domestic violence cases, violent and non-violent offenders when alcohol was a factor in the offense, and in Juvenile courts. Some states require all repeat DUI offenders to be wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet, other states require wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet on an individualized case basis. There are also states that have first-time DUI offenders wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet. DUI SCRAM users can be ordered to wear an alcohol-sensing unit for just a few days or for a year or more. Many states are just getting started using alcohol monitoring systems, but Colorado, Michigan and California were early adopters and leaders in SCRAM use.

Denver, Colorado and SCRAM Alcohol Monitoring Systems

SCRAM’s first tradeshow was held in Denver, Colorado during 2002. As of 2013, there were at least 6,000 SCRAM units being used in the state. A 2012 report (DOT HS 811 603) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 184 offenders were assigned to SCRAM and 47 to TAD during 2011 in just the city of Denver, Colorado.

Denver is not new player in electronic monitoring. Since 1994 Denver has its own city agency, the Electronic Monitoring Program (EMP) to manage electronic monitoring for Denver cases. But it wasn’t until 2003 that Denver began getting started with alcohol monitoring systems. Denver participated in beta testing for BI TAD prior to its 2009 availability. Denver currently uses both the SCRAM and TAD alcohol monitoring systems.

The NHTSA report (DOT HS 811 603) stated that Denver’s Electronic Monitoring Program does not work with the District Court except in certain special circumstances. Since Colorado passed a felony DUI law for repeat offenders which is expect to increase District Court DUI caseload, there is likely a need to evaluate and change current EMP policies.

SCRAM users in Denver, Colorado: Denver’s EMP is currently using SCRAM monitoring for adult and juvenile offenders, and for violent and non-violent offenders. Denver Sobriety Court also requires some DUI offenders to start wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet.

Referrals for SCRAM: The alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet can be ordered at different stages of the court process, and referrals come from multiple sources. It can be ordered as a condition of bond, sentencing, probation, or as an alternative to incarceration. Referrals come from local and municipal courts, Sheriff offices, probation or work-release offices, presentence investigations, or recommendations from DUI attorneys and the District Attorney.

Circumstances SCRAM can be used: DUI offenders with priors and any DUI offender with 20 g/dL can be assigned to get started with an alcohol monitoring system, and they generally are. Also, inmates returning to prison from work release with a positive alcohol test can be ordered to wearing an alcohol-monitoring bracelet as a condition for future work release. If alcohol played a role in a crime or if it’s an evidenced problem, SCRAM use can be court-ordered. DUI offenders who are noncompliant with probation orders can be ordered to wear a SCRAM monitoring unit as a condition for future release. Offenders who have difficulty reporting for alcohol testing can also be ordered to get started with a SCRAM alcohol monitoring system.

Monitoring Denver DUI SCRAM users: Information is typically ordered to be uploaded daily or weekly. Arrangements are made based on offender’s current phone line circumstances. Alcohol monitoring can be combined with GPS monitoring and curfews for house arrest. Go here to see how other states like Michigan, Idaho, Pennsylvania and California are using the SCRAM device

For More SCRAM Case Study Information

The current sources for recent case studies used in this article are on the SCRAM website, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report DOT HS 811 603 entitled Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring Case Studies, and the 2015 SCRAM study released by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration entitled “Comparative Study and Evaluation of SCRAM. Use, Recidivism Rates, and Characteristics” DOT HS 812 143. The 2015 study reported a recidivism rate over 97% when SCRAM users were wearing the alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet.

Since the transdermal alcohol monitoring system is relatively new, case studies are few. They key to 100% compliance and reducing repeat DUI offenders will be to develop meaningful case management plans with supporting arrest-to-community reentry plans, while having well-trained monitoring officials and goal-oriented unity with the officials in the court system.

SCRAM Violations and False Positive Readings—It’s in the Graph Line

SCRAM monitor false positives are partially guarded against by eliminating readings that are under .02% g/DL, together with the process of not flagging any SCRAM monitor readings until at least three readings over .02% come across the machine. An alcohol reading over .02% g/DL is equivalent to two drinks per hour for a 180 pound male on an empty stomach. The SCRAM monitors low level alcohol consumption, but it also records a curve of absorption. Alcohol absorption from skin or environmental use other than drinking will show a shorter curve line than an alcohol drinking episode would. Alcohol spills on the body show a sharp, rapid graph line on the SCRAM monitor, whereas drinking alcohol has a gradual lengthier curve. This is because when a person drinks alcohol it passes through several other parts of the body first. A person that works in an environment such as a garage, hair salon, chemical facility or manufacturing environment could potentially show false positives on the SCRAM monitor, and SCRAM monitor false positives do occur because of technical difficulties and human error.

The graphed curve lines on the SCRAM monitor system are all open to interpretation, and it is ultimately the data interpreter that sets the prison ball rolling for a potential SCRAM violation. If a SCRAM monitor false positive isn’t swiftly dismissed after further insight is gained, then a DUI attorney can investigate the technicalities and procedures that caused the SCRAM monitor false positive and present it to the court for evidence so the DUI offender wearing the SCRAM monitor does not get falsely accused and sent to prison for a SCRAM violation.

Aside from the obvious advice to SCRAM users to abstain from drinking alcohol, SCRAM users are also advised to use only alcohol-free products to avoid any SCRAM monitor false-positive readings. Many products used for daily hygiene, cosmetics, automotive, cleaning and general household use contain alcohol, as do products in work environments. SCRAM users are advised to abstain from using products that contain alcohol, and are warned that the SCRAM monitor false positives could occur. In particular, advice for SCRAM users includes avoiding mouthwashes, perfumes and cleaning supplies with alcohol.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a searchable database of products and product ingredients, and DUI attorneys advise SCRAM users to look up product ingredients to avoid any technical mishaps with false-positive SCRAM monitor readings that might end up being reported as a SCRAM violation by an inexperienced SCRAM data interpreter.

A DUI Attorney Can Help With a SCRAM Violation

If you’re falsely accused of consuming alcohol while wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet, an attorney who specializes in DUI cases can help. DUI attorneys that specialize in drinking and driving offenses are familiar with how to defend a SCRAM violation, particularly in Colorado where SCRAM has been used for years. An experienced DUI lawyer will investigate SCRAM monitor machine operability, improper baseline readings, lapses in maintenance, training, monitoring and record-keeping, data reading errors, improper product use, procedural errors, and offender alcohol drinking and non-drinking use to ensure that a DUI offender is not falsely accused of drinking while wearing a SCRAM monitor.

If a DUI offender doesn’t understand how SCRAM works and isn’t properly advised on how the SCRAM alcohol monitoring bracelet works under different environmental conditions, it’s far more likely for the DUI bracelet wearer to get a false positive while wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet. SCRAM violations can occur from not only exposure to alcohol, but also for tampering with the SCRAM unit. When getting started with an alcohol monitoring system, it’s also important to know that the ankle bracelet cannot get wet or be tampered with. Getting the alcohol monitoring bracelet wet can disrupt the technology and lead to a SCRAM violation.

Drowning in Despair Over a DUI? Wondering if You Can be a SCRAM User?

If you have a pending DUI charge in Colorado and would like to know if you can be a potential SCRAM user, call the experienced DUI lawyers at the Tiftickjian Law Firm. Colorado has been participating in electronic monitoring for many years, and Denver, Colorado has a specialized Sobriety Court. Interested? Call 303-DUI-5280 today to have a DUI lawyer help you with your pending DUI court case or SCRAM violation. The sooner you prove you’re sober, the easier your case will be.