SCRAM means "Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor." This device is a tamper-resistant ankle bracelet that you wear to monitor the amount of alcohol in your body after being convicted of DUI. Before discussing the essential details of SCRAM, it is important to note that you can always contact the Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm if you are facing DUI charges. Our services are available throughout Vista, California and the greater North County.

California’s DUI Laws

Wearing a SCRAM device is an alternative penalty to a jail term after you have been convicted of multiple DUIs. Thus, it is essential for you to understand California DUI laws.

Under California Vehicle Code 23152, you will be arrested for DUI if you drive while an alcoholic beverage has compromised your mental and physical abilities. Under the same code, it is unlawful for you to drive any vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above. It is also illegal for you to drive a commercial automobile if your BAC is 0.04 percent or higher. The 0.04 percent limit also applies if you are driving a passenger vehicle for hire when the passenger is in the car.

If you are under 21, Vehicle Code 23140 makes it unlawful for you to drive with a BAC of 0.05 percent or more. Additionally, California's zero tolerance law outlined in Vehicle Code 23136 makes it illegal for you to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01 percent or higher. There should be no detectable alcohol in your body. Under these two laws on underage drinking, you neither have to be impaired nor under the influence to face DUI charges.

How the SCRAM Device Works

A SCRAM device is a bracelet that you wear around your ankle every minute of every day if you receive a DUI conviction. The court imposes it as part of your sentencing for violating DUI laws. It is an alcohol monitoring system that tests your sweat for blood alcohol content to ensure you follow your court-ordered abstinence during your probation period. You are only required to wear the bracelet, and it does very little to disrupt your daily routine. 

The SCRAM bracelet is bulky and resembles an older version of a Garmin watch. It has two little boxes that rest on each side of your ankle. The boxes are comparable to the first pagers in size. The SCRAM bracelet uses a combination of transdermal alcohol testing and continuous alcohol monitoring technologies to monitor alcohol in your body.

The device rests on the skin and analyzes your blood alcohol levels at preset times. Through a transdermal sensor, the bracelet tests your sweat for alcohol. At random intervals of at least once every hour, the bracelet takes and records the readings. It also dates, timestamps all the data collected and then transmits the results wirelessly to the regional monitoring center at least once every day. You will feel a slight vibration as the device takes readings. After the bracelet transmits the data to the local monitoring center, trained data analysts analyze the data further to determine if you may have ingested any alcohol. The analysts then forward the results to the courts or probation officers. The bracelet has no alarms, lights or other signals to notify you of an alert. The first signal of a warning is at the data center; the central analysis point for all alerts before confirmation is sent to your probation supervisor.

The SCRAM bracelet has several sensors that detect attempts to tamper with or remove it. Any attempts to remove or tamper with the device are recorded in the daily monitoring report. Such reports can subject you to more penalties from the court. Moreover, the bracelet is water-resistant because you are required to wear it at all times. However, a shower is the only bathing method permitted. It is recommended that you do not submerge the device in water. If you immerse it in water, you will be considered to have interfered with the normal functioning of the SCRAM bracelet. Such interference will attract similar penalties to those of tampering with the bracelet. Additionally, you will be financially responsible for damages occurring from submerging the device. The SCRAM bracelet conducts diagnostic tests continually to keep it functioning correctly.

When you consume alcohol, your body processes most of it as urine and what remains is emitted through the breath. This breadth is what breathalyzers use to measure your blood alcohol content. A minimal amount of any alcohol you consume, often lower than one percent, is converted to ethanol vapor, which escapes from your body through sweat. This minimum amount is undetectable by your human senses. However, a SCRAM device can detect it with high precision and report to the regional monitoring center.

If your SCRAM bracelet records a positive reading, you could face serious consequences. These include charges of probation violation, loss of your pretrial release pending determination of your case and extra jail time.  There are also some alcohol-containing products that you are not supposed to use if you are wearing a SCRAM bracelet. You will be required to sign an agreement during installation that prohibits you from using these products. Signing the pledge is a way of ensuring that you do not trigger false readings by applying alcohol products on the bracelet.

The SCRAM bracelet can differentiate between alcohol that you have consumed and that which is in the environment. Exposure to alcohol does not automatically translate to alcohol consumption. Human analysis of the SCRAM device results ensures that all confirmed positive readings are from actual alcohol consumption. If you intentionally expose the device to alcohol either by spilling or spraying, you will have committed a violation. For this kind of tampering, you will face a series of sanctions from the court. 

If you tamper with or take off your SCRAM bracelet, the regional monitoring center will be promptly contacted. The court and your probation officer will also be immediately informed. Removing or tampering with the SCRAM bracelet can lead to charges of probation violation and other harsh consequences.

The length of time that you have to wear the SCRAM bracelet varies from one month to more than one year, but on average, it lasts 90 days. It generally depends on the judge’s opinion of the severity of your alcohol problem, the seriousness of your DUI offense and your DUI history in the past ten years. Wearing a SCRAM bracelet does not earn you credit since your SCRAM sentence does not include confinement.

In other forms of DUI monitoring such as an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), your BAC is tested only while driving. A SCRAM device is unique because it monitors your alcohol intake at all times. It is also different from a home confinement ankle device. A confinement bracelet monitors your location. However, while wearing a SCRAM bracelet, you can go anywhere, provided it is within your probation terms.

The Rationale Behind a SCRAM Bracelet

The sole reason why SCRAM bracelets were created was to provide you with a practical alternative to jail time if you are convicted of DUI. It was designed because jails are overpopulated and the maintenance of inmates is expensive. By wearing a SCRAM bracelet, you will be allowed to be free. Your freedom saves the state money and creates room in jail for criminals charged with more serious offenses.

The judge reserves the right to decide whether or not the SCRAM bracelet is enough as a penalty in your DUI case. If you are charged with a 3rd DUI, whether you go to jail or get a SCRAM bracelet depends on your record and where you live. However, since the bracelet is meant to prevent DUI offenders from depleting jail space and funds, it is very likely that you will receive a bracelet as opposed to jail time.

Advantages and Disadvantages of SCRAM Devices

There are benefits associated with using a SCRAM device.

A SCRAM bracelet may seem intrusive, but in reality, the main reason for wearing the bracelet is to help you abstain from drinking alcohol. Most people who use the device are those arrested for multiple DUIs and those with alcohol addictions. Often, a SCRAM bracelet works as an addition to rehabilitation in place of jail time. It is an alternative sentence aimed at rehabilitating rather than punishing you. The court will order you to wear the SCRAM bracelet for a period that is long enough to monitor your rehabilitation.

If you agree to use the bracelet, you get reduced or no jail time. Using a SCRAM bracelet means that you can attend to your work, school and other social engagements or events so long as you remain sober. A combination of rehabilitation and a SCRAM bracelet is a better alternative to jail time if you have been charged with a 3rd or 4th DUI within the past ten years. Extended use of the device can also help you get your license reinstated by proving that you have maintained sobriety. Wearing the SCRAM bracelet proves to the court that you are committed to safety and you have no additional problem. While you try to use the device to avoid jail time, the invention may end up being a solution to your alcohol dependency.

To the government, SCRAM devices are a way of cutting downs cost of running jails since DUI offenders do not have to serve time in prison. Additionally, it is an effective method for treating any alcohol addiction you may have, especially if the bracelet is combined with different types of treatment or counseling. It stops you from drinking before you cause serious harm to anybody.

There are, however, some disadvantages in wearing a SCRAM device.

The major disadvantage of SCRAM bracelets is that the court will monitor you continuously and you cannot consume any amount of alcohol. Any evidence of a violation or an attempt to tamper with the device could get you incarcerated. You will also have to endure the physical discomfort of wearing the device for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Another disadvantage is that it is your responsibility to pay for the device. The cost of installation is between $50 and $100. There is an average monitoring fee of $10 - $12 daily. Prices will depend on your income. If you are financially incapable, the court will pay for the device. However, compared to jail time, paying for the device may not be such a great inconvenience for you.

Like other equipment, SCRAM devices are not perfect. The device registers positive results whenever it experiences any alcohol on the skin’s dermal layer. If the SCRAM bracelet picks up the presence of alcohol either from sweat or a topical application, it automatically registers alcohol presence. Using mouthwash, perfumes, toiletries and cleaning products can result in false positive results.

Who is Eligible for a SCRAM Device?

SCRAM devices are designed to detect alcohol levels in the body. Therefore, if you are wearing a SCRAM device, you are expected to abstain from alcohol intake entirely. Currently, there is no explicit statute regulating who should be compelled to wear the bracelet or mandating you to wear it if you are convicted of DUI. The devices are also very intrusive by design. For these reasons, only a minority of DUI offenders have to wear the bracelet. The devices are usually reserved for severe DUI cases that pose a danger to the society such as multiple prior convictions or alcohol dependency.

Every DUI case is unique, and the decision of whether you should wear the device is at the judge’s discretion. A majority of the judges will make the decision based on your background and records. If your record is clean or your DUIs in the past ten years are far apart, the judge may consider the bracelet a suitable option for you. If your DUIs are within a short period of each other, the bracelet may not be adequate to solve your alcohol troubles.

Once you are arrested for DUI, police will perform a background check for any criminal records in the last ten years. Multiple prior DUI convictions indicate that you have poor decision-making ability in matters relating to drinking and driving. Repeat DUI offenders are also more likely to cause fatal accidents, and therefore, if you have multiple prior convictions of DUI, a judge may order you to wear a SCRAM bracelet. You have multiple priors if you have been arrested for DUI more than two times.

A judge will order you to wear a SCRAM device if you exhibit signs of alcohol dependency. You have an alcohol addiction if you have a history of alcoholism or your previous attempts at treatment for your alcohol-related problems were unsuccessful. Additionally, if you voluntarily submit to a SCRAM device, you may avoid a jail term and prove to the court that you are committed to seeking help for your alcohol problem.

In most cases, a SCRAM bracelet will be used to monitor you in the long-term if part of your sentence for DUI was to avoid alcohol. Typically, you will be ordered to wear a SCRAM bracelet if you are not permitted to take any amount of alcohol especially if you are on probation for DUI. You may also be required to use it temporarily while your case is pending in court. Therefore, if you have to wear the SCRAM bracelet, it is advisable that you wholly abstain from alcohol for the entire period the device is on.

Generally, judges believe that SCRAM bracelets are scientifically proven. Evidence of alcohol in the blood or tampering is admissible in court. To successfully challenge SCRAM records, you would have to provide proof of malfunction of the bracelet and argue that some SCRAM bracelets give false positives. If you have a witness who can testify that you were not drinking or the prosecution lacks enough evidence of alcohol consumption, the judge could reject your SCRAM results.

The Evolving Role of the SCRAM Bracelet in California

For a long time, SCRAM devices have been used in cases of people with severe alcohol problems. California is planning to roll out a new program whose primary objective is to keep you sober and consistently active in DUI rehabilitation programs. The program is designed specifically for people who get forced out of DUI rehabilitation programs for attending while under the influence.

Under the program’s guidelines, if you have to attend DUI School, wearing a SCRAM bracelet will be a requirement. The aim is to emphasize the significance of DUI rehabilitation programs and keep you sober in the classroom. The program aims at helping you complete the required DUI classes instead of dropping out due to alcoholism.  Since the SCRAM device will continuously monitor your alcohol intake, you will be closely followed for abstinence. The expectation is that compulsory sobriety will help eliminate your alcohol dependency problems.

Find a DUI Attorney Near Me

If you are arrested for DUI in Vista, CA or the North County area, and you have prior DUIs, there is a high likelihood that you could be convicted and jailed. However, our lawyers at Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm are very conversant with the transdermal alcohol testing technology used by SCRAM devices. Call our Vista DUI Lawyer at 760-691-1540, and we will help you navigate your options.