What is an Electronic Monitoring Device such as a SCRAM bracelet, and how has it changed the way DUI cases are handled by California courts? : CALIFORNIA DUI and CDL DEFENSE CENTER BLOG

What is an Electronic Monitoring Device such as a SCRAM bracelet, and how has it changed the way DUI cases are handled by California courts?

by Attorney Felicia Woods-Yates on 03/22/15

What is an Electronic Monitoring Device such as a SCRAM bracelet, and how has it changed the way DUI cases are handled by California courts?

The first electronic monitoring device was created over 50 years ago by students at Harvard University.  It is now an integral part of our criminal justice system, and can be used to keep tabs on the whereabouts, as well as any alcohol consumption, by DUI defendants.

Today’s devices vary in size and shape, but all are designed to accomplish the same thing…make sure a DUI defendant does not re-offend while awaiting a trial or some other disposition in a pending case.  The modern day monitoring devices, known as SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring) bracelets, are normally worn around the ankle.  The devices can even be equipped with GPS capabilities and rely upon mobile broadband towers (like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint use) to monitor a person’s location.  Blood alcohol levels of DUI defendants are typically measured through a person’s sweat glands, and the presence of any alcohol would be reported back to a monitoring station – which would then notify the Court of any perceived SCRAM violation.   

A DUI defendant will normally be required to wear this device pursuant to a Court Order, during the pendency of his/her DUI proceedings.  One common reason a Court may use to compel participation in a SCRAM program is whenever a person is facing a DUI charge(s) in which the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) test results reflect an unusually high level, such as a .16 BAC or higher (twice the “legal limit” of .08 BAC - the point at which California law assumes you are impaired).  There are daily SCRAM monitoring fees the DUI defendant must pay in order to participate in the program.  Once your case has been adjudicated or finalized, then the requirement of wearing the SCRAM device is normally lifted by the Court – so it does not become a term or condition of any probationary period.  The SCRAM device IS NOT a form of House Arrest – you may still work, go to school, etc., during the SCRAM program, but you must not drink any alcohol.

The reality is this, since jails are oftentimes overcrowded and there is a high cost associated with incarcerating people, many states (including California) have been relying upon electronic monitors as a cost-effective way to send people home and free up jail space. Among other objectives, SCRAM programs are designed to reintegrate people back into society, where they can work, pay taxes, and have access to community services.  Interestingly, the original intent of the electronic monitoring device when it was first invented 50 years ago was to reward people for good behavior and change their habits through positive reinforcement, as opposed to the modern day use of punishing them for alleged bad behavior.

Since everyone's DUI incident is unique to that individual and the specific circumstances, you should consult with a competent defense attorney to determine your best course of action.  Felicia Yates has been practicing law for over 30 years in California and can be reached at (760) 326-5297, and found at Law Offices of Felicia Yates & Associates.



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