SCRAM Violations caused by Alcohol False Positive


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Tag Archives: orange county DUI sentencing

SCRAM Violations caused by Alcohol False Positive

Orange County SCRAM ankle bracelet

SCRAM Violations caused by Alcohol False Positive

SCRAM is an alternative to jail time in DUI cases.  It works by measuring the skin for the presence of alcohol through an ankle bracelet.  Because of how it works, it shows a judge, or a probation officer, that the person has been sober, and abstained from alcohol during the time period that it is worn. SCRAM Violations caused by Alcohol False Positive can be defended against, however.
SCRAM bracelets are supposed to be tamper proof.  But it is not uncommon for persons wearing the devices to try to interfere with the device, by placing plastic wrap between the skin and the machine, lunch meats, like bologna, or lotions or oils.
Some persons facing a SCRAM alcohol reading in the past have claimed that cleaning products, or medicines (like cough syrup, which has alcohol), or working around alcohol caused a false positive for the SCRAM device.
In most cases, a term of the sentence or probation that avoids jail time is to have no SCRAM readings, or any indications of tampering with the device.  A tampering is considered a false reading.
Alternative Sentencing for DUI - Scram
Judges, when dealing with false positive claims, are not terribly impressed with tampering claims by the prosecutors or probation when there lacks simultaneous evidence of drinking or an admission that someone consumed alcohol.
The way that a tampering issue comes up is that the IR (Infrared) sensor reports a change in the voltage reading outside of the variance for a period exceeding 8 hours. Readings are taken every half hour. The variance is supposedly unique to each bracelet and each individual. In one recent tampering allegation, the variance was about 15% from the running baseline voltage with a variance expressed in percentages as 12%. The baselines are set when the bracelet is first put on the client of the DUI lawyer.
As an Orange County DUI specialist, we receive a graph that shows transdermal alcohol present when they put the bracelet on a client, typically right after he or she leaves their probation office and gives a clean urine sample.
They give you a “report” about the alleged violation. The report looks impressive, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. They give you chunks of data but not the whole thing.  The best thing to do to handle SCRAM violations is to hire a consultant and send a subpoena to the manufacturer (the largest manufacturer for SCRAM is AMS), for all of the IR voltage data for the history of the instrument, and any error logs, an d all calibration and maintenance records.
SCRAM ankle bracelet orange county jail
As you might expect, the manufacturer sometimes pushes back on information requests.  They don’t want their reputation to suffer with the court. Many manufacturers have an installer and “middleman” for the court or for probation.
Many installation companies have policies that guide an officer on how they decide what a violation is. Often, that is a criteria that differs from provider to provider.
Orange County Probation Officers usually try to help facilitate getting the data and can even subpoena engineers from AMS or elsewhere to testify b. Engineers will usually acknowledge that the data from one of the reports could have been consistent with a sock blocking the IR from the top of the instrument and slipping off – which might have been exactly what happened.
The IR sensor is located near the top of the SCRAM instrument. If the wearer wears a sock – it could quite likely interfere with the IR voltage readings and trigger a tampering claim.
The witness testifying from AMS delivered the data and showed up with it at court. Of course, they brought it out in the middle of the hearing. The best approach was to have the engineer use the data as the key to tell the difference between instability of the instrument and an actual statistically-significant change in the IR voltage that is evidence of interference.

Winning allegations of SCRAM Violations caused by Alcohol False Positive

The judge in the above case case told the client that there was no violation but the judge thought it would be a good idea to write an essay.  He had to continue to wear the SCRAM as a term of DUI probation. Even with a finding of no violation he still had to write an essay.  Accepting that was the lesser of two evils.

SCRAM Violations caused by Alcohol False Positive often can benefit from the use of an expert witness in a DUI case. We usually  ask our expert witness (a forensic analytic expert) to analyze the data. He plots it in no time flat (50 pages) in most cases.  The IR sensor fluctuates wildly in some cases, which results in probation violation dismissals.

Our approach to allegations of false positives for SCRAM devices

We find our law firm fighting over SCRAM malfunctions for our clients more and more. We’ve put some protocols into place, and they have made the fights on behalf of our clients a little easier.

First, every single one of our clients who needs to get a SCRAM installed is directed to the SCRAM page on our website, and it tells them this:

Unfortunately, SCRAM has the same unreliable factors as all monitoring systems, and one of those unreliable factors is the human element. If you take part in SCRAM monitoring either as a pre-plea condition or as part of sentencing, please take these common-sense precautions to make sure nothing happens that could get you in trouble:

1.  When you have the SCRAM device attached to your ankle, you will also be signing a contract. Make sure that the serial number on the device matches the serial number on the contract. Then, before they attach the device, take a picture of the serial number on the device. Send your attorney (us) a picture of the serial number and a picture of the contract by email so that the matching numbers are effectively time-stamped.

2.  Don’t ever place anything between the device and your skin. No lotion. No socks. No leggings or sweatpants – nothing.

3.  If the device is acting strangely or if you have any reason to believe that it is registering an alcohol or tamper event, contact your attorney at our law firm immediately. He or she may want you to get a urine screen done to show that there was no alcohol intake on your part, but you need to get the screen done quickly. We usually send clients to Quest Diagnostics when we need a quick screen done. It is not cheap, but it is a lot less expensive than a SCRAM violation.

This eliminates anyone saying that nobody told them not to put a sock between the device and their leg. In addition, every time one of my clients has to go on SCRAM, I send the SCRAM rep an email that says something like this:


I represent John Doe, who is required to have a SCRAM CAM for 90 days pursuant to a sentence imposed by Hon. Judge, in Orange County Superior Court. You can reach Mr. Doe at (585) 555-1212 to schedule an appointment.

I am also writing to ask that I be notified immediately of any tamper events or alcohol detection events. If there is any sort of event that would need to be reported to the court, I need to know within 24 hours so that I can ask Mr. Doe to get a urine screen from a certified lab. Because the SCRAM does not tell the client when it is detecting an event, I kindly request that SCRAM notify me as soon as practicable, but in no case more than 24 hours after any such event.

This way, and this is important, when we land back in court because of an alleged violation, I either have a lab test that I can show the judge, or a question about why we weren’t notified so that we could have had a screen done. These precautions have helped me get a couple clients out of jams.

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The court in Newport Beach (the Harbor Justice Center) is very familiar with the use of SCRAM in DUI cases, as an alternative to jail.  We are familiar with not only DUI, but as DUI Lawyers Orange County Newport Beach, CA, we know how SCRAM DUI probation violation cases are handled there.  If you have any questions for us, contact us today.