How the SCRAM Ankle Bracelet Measures Blood Alcohol

SCRAM Bracelets: Accuracy v. False Positives in the State of Texas

How the SCRAM Ankle Bracelet Measures Blood Alcohol

Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) ankle bracelet is a type of alcohol monitoring device used either as a condition of a persons bond, or as a condition of probation.

If your DWI or intoxicated-related case is pending or you are on probation, a court may require that you wear one.

Other alcohol monitoring devices include the interlock device and in-home device or soberlink, but the SCRAM bracelet generally provides the most frequent alcohol monitoring, or is at least intended to do so.

Problems, however, arise with the use of these ankle bracelets, and on an experienced Board Certified DWI and Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney — to note, there are only two in the state of Texas — will be able to help you.

Depending at which part of the process you are in, Doug Murphy — one of the two attorneys Board-certified in both DWI and criminal defense in Texas — can help you fight your DWI or related charge.

Alternatively, if you have already been ordered to wear a SCRAM bracelet in Texas, he can help you if your device reports a false positive, which they have a horrible habit of doing.  

If your criminal case is NOT in Texas, we suggest you search for a qualified attorney on to assist you in your state.

When Could I be Required to wear a SCRAM bracelet?

Repeat or habitual DWI offenders are generally the recipients of a SCRAM bracelet.

The sentencing judge will consider the nature of the offense and the offender and determine if alcohol consumption should be withheld for a certain period of time as opposed to an ignition interlock, that prevents you from driving while intoxicated but does not if you drink on your own time outside the vehicle.

In light of the fact the judge may deem it necessary to withhold alcohol, SCRAM bracelet use is regularly accompanied by a court-ordered rehabilitation program. The combination is intended to break habitual drinkers' habits.

What are SCRAM Bracelets?

SCRAM bracelets are ankle bracelets used to measure the presence of alcohol in sweat, otherwise known as transdermal alcohol testing.

If you are required to wear a SCRAM device, you must keep it on throughout the entire duration of the required time period unless you are having it refitted.

The devices have been around since 2003, and since that time, they have become a popular mode to track alcohol consumption.

SCRAM bracelets are a three part system: (1) the bracelet; (2) the modem; and (3) the software. The bracelet contains a fuel cell and computer chip to store the data. The modem uses radio frequency signals to communicate with the bracelet. The software is a web-based application used to store and organize the collected data.

SCRAM bracelets are water-resistance, and there are safeguards in place in case a wearer attempts to tamper with it.

The bracelet has two sides, with one side used for the ethanol sensor and the other side used for tamper-resistant technologies, and the tamper clip.

The tamper clip secures the SCRAM strap and battery to your ankle, and if it is to be removed, it must be destroyed. The other tamper-resistant technologies include temperature sensors and removal detection.

These tamper-resistant technologies include:

  • Battery Removal. If you try to remove the battery and reinsert it later, SCRAM detects when the battery is inserted, so authorities will see if you attempted to remove and reinsert it.
  • Electrical Signal. There is a small electrical signal that continuously passes through the strap, so if you cut the strap, the electrical signal stops or is interrupted. This interruption is evidence you cut or tampered with the SCRAM bracelet.
  • Infrared Sensor. If you try to put something between your ankle and the SCRAM to prevent a reading, the bracelet will detect the interference. SCRAM bracelets contain an infrared (IR) sensor that shines a beam of infrared against the skin. The skin absorbs part of the beam and another part bounces back to the device. Initially, when installed, the SCRAM bracelet records a baseline IR reading, and if that reading later varies by a recognizable percentage, then it ly means that you tried to insert something and an alert will be initiated that you tried to tamper with the SCRAM bracelet.
  • Temperature Sensor. The temperature sensor takes temperature readings and monitors these temperature readings. Any variance in temperature may signify that you tried to tamper with the device by again placing something between the skin and the bracelet. Obstruction generally results in lower temperature readings.

How do SCRAM Bracelets Work?

The science behind SCRAM bracelets is rather old and simple. When you ingest alcohol, the alcohol diffuses throughout the water in your body. Thus, after digestion, alcohol is present in your sweat as much as it is present in your blood, urine and breath.

As the liver metabolizes the alcohol, roughly 1% of the consumed alcohol passes through skin either via sensible or insensible perspiration. Sensible perspiration is sweat as liquid, what we commonly think of as sweat. Insensible perspiration is sweat in a vapor form, always there yet never noticed.

The average person emits approximately 1 liter of insensible perspiration every day. SCRAM uses insensible perspiration to measure the ethanol gas.

The device measures perspiration every 30 minutes and the readings are transferred daily to the software for storage and organization.

If alcohol is detected, three additional readings will be monitored to ensure the reading is correct or if some other element is interfering with the reading to produce a false reading.

If it is alcohol, the readings will display a gradual change; if it is not alcohol, the readings will display a significant increase or decrease.

A violation report will generate upon confirmation that the SCRAM has detected alcohol. These reports include graphs along with the readings, detailed information that is frequently misread by prosecutors and inexperienced DWI attorneys.

What happens if I Violate an Order to Wear a SCRAM Bracelet?

If you were ordered by a judge to wear a SCRAM bracelet, you must comply with the order. Failure to comply, which may mean a violation report was generated, may initiate a hearing. The prosecution could argue that your bond be increased and then take you back into custody. Generally, any of the following consequences can be anticipated:

  • Imposition of original penalties (fines or jail);
  • Loss of driving privileges;
  • Loss of civil privileges (probation, parole); and/or
  • Rehabilitation (counseling, community service).

The problem, however, is what if the reading was false? It happens more than you might imagine, but most people don't fight it.

They either don't know how or their attorneys don't know how, or worse, their attorneys don't know how to read the complicated reports to identify where inaccuracies might have occurred.

SCRAM bracelets are known to make mistakes; nothing is foolproof even though we live in an advanced technological age.

You should make sure the violation report is read by an experienced DWI criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy. Located in Houston, Texas, he represents clients throughout Houston and the surrounding communities.

If your SCRAM bracelet resulted in a violation report and you know you didn't have any alcohol, there's ly something wrong with the report. Doug Murphy can interpret the graphs and help you with your case.

Why are SCRAM Bracelets a Problem?

SCRAM bracelets, though they are the top of the line for such devices, still produce bad or false readings that can cause problems for someone who did nothing wrong. There is almost nothing worse than spending time in jail for a violation you did not commit. If someone would just listen to you! The police and prosecutor won't, but Doug Murphy will.

False positives happen, and they happen because alcohol is in so many of our day-to-day problems. Though the manufacturers have tried to counter this issue, the fact remains: false positives happen.

If you use mouthwash, cologne or take a lot of cold medicine to get over that nasty cough, you could initiate a false positive. In fact, almost any products that have alcohol in it should be avoided, such as dandruff shampoos, hair gel, vinegar, Kombucha, etc.

If you use any products with alcohol, it's probably wise to keep a list of what you use in the event a false positive puts you back in the slammer.

Can I challenge a SCRAM bracelet?

Yes, and you most definitely should. Many claims have contested the accuracy of SCRAM readings and their violation reports. If you experienced a false reading, contact Doug Murphy today. He can request a hearing and challenge the report on your behalf.

Comprehensive, Experienced DWI Lawyer in Houston, Texas

At Doug Murphy Law Firm, we devote our resources and capabilities to defend our clients' rights. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results.

Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board-certified criminal defense lawyer and a Board-certified DWI lawyer who not only fights on behalf of his clients but constantly gives back to the legal community to teach other attorneys how to do the same.

 Contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today to discuss the circumstances of your case.


Can I Wear A SCRAM Ankle Bracelet Instead of Going To Jail After Getting A DUI In California?

How the SCRAM Ankle Bracelet Measures Blood Alcohol

A SCRAM device is a bracelet you wear on your ankle 24 hours a day as part of a DUI sentence. SCRAM is short for “Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor.

” When you wear it, it monitors your alcohol consumption by sampling your sweat. You may be ordered to wear one if you are required to completely avoid alcohol as part of your DUI sentence.

If you have any alcohol in your system, the SCRAM will send out an alert that you are breaking your probation terms.

Who has to wear a SCRAM device?

SCRAMs are usually used for repeat DUI offenders. It is not common in a first-time DUI. It’s typically used for long-term monitoring of someone who has an alcohol addiction problem, and who has been ordered to abstain from alcohol as part of their treatment program. The SCRAM is considered to add accountability because it is impossible to drink without having it be detected.

Is wearing a SCRAM a good thing or a bad thing?

It depends. On the one hand, a SCRAM is used as a form of punishment. It is expensive, occasionally uncomfortable, and it can be difficult to explain to loved ones. In this regard, a SCRAM is generally not something you want in your life.

On the other hand, a SCRAM can be used to keep you jail or prison. Repeat DUI offenders can, in some cases, face up to 1 year in the county jail or even 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison.

Often, defendants in this situation have already failed at past alcohol treatment methods, and they are seen as a danger by the courts. But if you and your lawyer introduce the possibility of a SCRAM, it means you are committed to going completely alcohol-free.

In some cases, this could get the prosecutor or judge to waive the prison time as long as you complete your SCRAM period. In other words, it can literally get you jail.

How does the SCRAM bracelet work?

When you drink, the alcohol you consume has to go somewhere. From the stomach it enters the bloodstream, causing intoxication, and is slowly eliminated by the kidneys and passed through your urine.

However, during the time it’s in the blood, some of it is exhaled with breath from the lungs (which can be measured with a breath test), and a tiny part of the alcohol—generally less than 1%—escapes as ethanol vapor through your sweat pores.

This amount of alcohol is not detectable to the human nose, but a SCRAM is sensitive enough to detect it. 

SCRAMs resemble a bracelet with two small boxes that fit on either side of the leg, just above the ankle. These boxes are small enough that, when covered with pants, they are hard to notice. 

Once activated, the SCRAM checks for alcohol in your blood at regular intervals. This may be as often as every 30 seconds. It takes the results and transmits them once a day to a monitoring service.

It can also detect if you try to remove the device, and will include this in the report. The SCRAM will work even if immersed in water, and needs to be worn at all times—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If the SCRAM reports any alcohol in your system, analysts will review data from throughout the day to make sure it’s consistent with actual drinking. This will then be reported to the courts. wise, any tampering with the device is reported immediately to the courts and your probation officer. Both are considered a probation violation and can result in very serious consequences.

How long will I have to wear the SCRAM?

There is no fixed period for wearing a SCRAM, so the exact length depends on your case. Generally, DUI defendants who wear SCRAMS have to wear them for at least 1 month and no more than 1 year.

If you and your lawyer are proposing a SCRAM to avoid jail or prison time, it’s often best to suggest a longer period—such as 6 months or a full year.

This time is your chance to show the court that you really have gone alcohol-free and that you will not endanger anyone again.

Wearing a SCRAM is not free, however. It typically costs you, the offender, between $10-15 per day that you wear it. This can make it an expensive option, especially for longer sentences, but it can be worth it if it will keep you jail or prison.

Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.


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