SCRAM – Continuous Alcohol Monitoring Option
In every Charlotte DWI case, our firm completes an extensive, thorough review of all State’s evidence before making any decisions on strategy and what is the best case scenario for our clients. In some situations, we may challenge legal or police error and/or go to trial. In other cases where the evidence is conclusive, we may recommend a client submit to SCRAM monitoring if they are facing mandatory time in jail. So what is SCRAM? The acronym stands for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring.
This is a relatively new system used nationwide that has only been recently adopted in North Carolina. It provides an alternative to jail sentences for judges who want to give a defendant one last chance. One important aspect of SCRAM is that you can voluntarily submit to it. If you are able to remain alcohol free for an established period of time (usually 30-60 days), then SCRAM may be a good option for you. This allows you to show a judge that you are serious about taking care of any alcohol addiction issues you may have. When a judge sees that a person has voluntarily submitted to SCRAM, and is successfully abstaining from alcohol, he or she may be more willing to keep you out of jail on probation.
How does SCRAM work?
When you consume alcohol, your body releases fumes through your skin that can be detected by a SCRAM device. As long as the sensor stays in contact with your skin, it will monitor any gasses released. It stores the readings on board in the unit which can store up to 7 days of information. Different systems transmit this information in various ways. Some devices require you to connect to a computer and manually download the information while others allow you to simply walk past a base station which wirelessly uploads the data and relays it to a central database. This information is compiled into monthly or weekly reports which document whether the person has consumed any alcohol.
How sensitive are the sensors?
In fact, they are very sensitive. Virtually every time that you consume any alcohol, the SCRAM bracelet will catch it and report it. It is arguably too sensitive and subject to error. There are some substances that should be avoided as they can cause false positives that the SCRAM device will “catch” and report. This means that you have to be careful when doing things like using mouthwash. Mouthwash can cause a spike in the reading unless you use “alcohol free” products.
There are experts that can try to determine whether these spikes are accurate or are false positives, but if you are using a blood alcohol monitoring device, don’t rely on the fact that there are experts to refute a false positive. There are other substances that can cause problems as well. For instance, using acetone to remove fingernail polish may also cause the sensor to register alcohol.
For some people, substances their place of work can result in false positives. For instance, the chemicals in screen-printing are volatile and can cause problems for the sensor. And, of course, bartenders are never going to be able to pass as they frequently have drinks and beer accidentally spill on them.
What is it like wearing a sensor?
The sensor is worn as an ankle bracelet. It has to be in contact with the skin and cannot be removed for any period at any time. It is water resistant, such that you can take a shower, but you cannot go swimming. It is tamper resistant, and if you try to take it off or disable it, the device will show that you tried to tamper with it.
The SCRAM device may be covered with a pant leg to avoid any embarrassment. It does not typically hamper your mobility because you can travel anywhere there is a working Internet connection. It may delay your entry on to an airplane as you will need to notify security of your electronic device.
As you can see, if you voluntarily choose to get on the SCRAM system, you must be ready to stick with it. If you try to sneak a drink, you will almost certainly be caught. If you try to disable the device, you will likely be revealed. You will have to alter your lifestyle to stay away from any alcohol based products or situations in which you are exposed to alcohol.
After all, no one will believe you if someone else “accidentally” spills a drink on you at a party or get together. Instead, you must be ready to fully commit to the SCRAM program. If you do and are successful, the benefit is probation versus active jail time. It’s worth the effort. Just make sure you can give it your full effort.
Voluntary vs. Court Order
Sometimes you do not have a choice if you are put in the SCRAM program because a judge may condition your probation on completing the program. A judge can sentence you for up to 90 days of continuous blood alcohol content monitoring for a Level 2 sentence, and up to 120 days for a Level 1 sentence. Prior to sentencing, you may earn up to 60 days of pretrial monitoring credit towards any time ordered by the judge. You will be charged an installation fee to get the device put on, and you will also have to pay a daily or weekly fee to have it monitored. You can choose from several area providers and shop prices and reliability reviews.
The Positive Side of SCRAM
The good news about SCRAM monitoring is that it can be an effective tool for someone who wants to quit drinking alcohol altogether, and you have mobility and freedom while using it. It is a powerful tool for you to help you stay accountable. As long as you can access an Internet connection, you can upload the information and confirm your progress from your ankle bracelet. This program option may be able to keep you out of jail even if you have a very serious DWI. If you voluntarily choose to submit to pre-sentencing SCRAM testing, you can demonstrate real effort and may be able to convince a judge to allow you to continue SCRAM monitoring rather than serving time in jail.
Typical SCRAM Scenarios
This option is recommended for those clients who, if convicted, would be sentenced at Level One or Level Two punishment. In order to get sentenced at these levels, there need only be a single Grossly Aggravating Factor in the case. One of the most common Grossly Aggravating Factors is a prior DWI conviction within the past seven (7) years. However, other potential Grossly Aggravating Factors can include driving impaired while license revoked from a prior DWI revocation, causing serious injury to another person while impaired, and/or driving impaired with a child under the age of 18 years old, a person with the mental development of someone less than 18 years old, or a person with a handicap that makes them unable to get out without assistance in the vehicle. So be careful when drinking and then heading home and drive alone. The only difference between a misdemeanor DWI and a felony DWI is one accident and one serious injury.