You may have heard the term SCRAM bracelet or alcohol bracelet in relation to DUI. But what do those terms really mean?
The term “SCRAM” stands for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor. The bracelet is an alcohol monitoring device given to repeat DUI offenders who are court ordered to abstain from alcohol. The alcohol bracelets are actually worn on the ankle, and help law enforcement maintain court orders to keep high-risk defendants from drinking. However, there is some debate surrounding the reliability of the bracelets and whether their use violates defendants’ civil liberties.
Who Has to Wear a SCRAM Bracelet?
In some jurisdictions, a court may require a DUI offender to wear a SCRAM bracelet as part of a sentence compelling them to stop drinking alcohol. A judge may also order a defendant to wear a SCRAM bracelet as part of a ‘pretrial condition‘ or ‘post-conviction‘. In most cases, jurisdictions that use the DUI bracelet reserve orders for those with multiple DUI convictions and substance abuse disorders.
When a judge determines a defendant is a repeat offender in an alcohol-related case, they might order use of a SCRAM bracelet to monitor the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) prior to trial. In some cases, a judge may consider releasing the defendant from jail only if they wear the DUI bracelet while awaiting trial.
Remember, our criminal justice system is founded on the idea that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, pretrial release helps navigate the waters between defendant’s rights and community safety concerns. Courts also use the bracelets for pretrial release in order to free up jail space.
A judge may also order a high-risk defendant to wear a SCRAM bracelet as a condition of probation. If the defendant does not wear the bracelet, it would be considered a probation violation and the defendant could be sent back to jail.
State Law Decides
A court’s decision to order a defendant to wear a SCRAM bracelet depends on the state law where the defendant lives. Some states have debated the fairness of such a device and whether forcing a defendant to wear one is constitutional.
For example, New York courts determined that defendants should pay for the ankle devices themselves and that it was legal to enforce a repeat offender wear one. Michigan has the largest SCRAM bracelet operation in the country. The state authorizes court orders when defendants are involved in a drunk driving incident involving death and have a blood alcohol content of 0.24 or greater. If a defendant’s blood alcohol level is 0.23 or less, they must wear the device for a minimum of six months.
In contrast, North Dakota’s legislature debated the question, What Is a SCRAM Bracelet’s utility in curbing impaired driving? Currently, the state utilizes the device for both alcohol and drug related cases, in addition to cases involving domestic violence and child abuse or neglect. High-risk defendants in North Dakota must wear the bracelet for one year, and offenders who have four or more DUIs are monitored for a minimum of two years.
How Does a SCRAM Bracelet Work?
SCRAM bracelets measure the amount of alcohol by analyzing a defendant’s perspiration. The bracelet has a sensor that detects the presence of alcohol released through the skin. Known as ‘transdermal‘ testing, the measurements are taken 24 hours a day in 30-minute intervals.
Data from the measurement of the defendant’s alcohol level is stored and sent to a monitoring service provider. The provider will detect whether there is enough alcohol present to amount to a violation. If a violation is detected, the monitoring provider will alert the court, parole officer, or law enforcement.
Can You Scam a SCRAM Bracelet?
The alcohol bracelets are designed so that defendants can neither remove nor tamper with them. The sensors on the device will send an alert if the bracelet is tampered with.
However, many people have attempted to circumvent the ankle monitor with creative methods, including:
- Wrapping the device in aluminum foil
- Submerging the ankle monitor in ice water to prevent sweating
- Placing cold cuts, like a slice of bologna, between the monitor and skin
- Blocking the skin sensor
How Much Do SCRAM Bracelets Cost?
With technology comes expense, and one question often asked is, How much does a SCRAM bracelet cost? Defendants pay for the installation and monitoring of the bracelets and the price can quickly add up. Installation typically costs between $50 to $100, depending on where the defendant lives.
Daily monitoring fees average around $15, so defendants may spend hundreds of dollars a month on their SCRAM bracelets.
Because the devices are so expensive, courts will use the defendant’s income to determine the fee. Additionally, if a defendant is ‘indigent,’ the court may waive the fee and pay for the bracelet instead.
Need a DUI Lawyer?
Still wondering, What is a SCRAM bracelet? If you’ve been involved in a DUI you may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Reach out for a free case evaluation from an experienced defense attorney.