Written by attorney David Nelson Jolly

DUI Consequences: Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM )

Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM )

The “Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor system," or more commonly known as SCRAM, is a water and tamper-resistant Bracelet that collects, stores and transmits measurements of an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC). The SCRAM device is made by a company named AMS, was developed in 1991, first introduced in 2003, and now is used in more than forty states. The device is considered a transdermal alcohol sensor and measures alcohol that is lost through the skin from sweat. The device utilizes three technologies that work simultaneously, yet separately, namely the Transdermal Alcohol Content (TAC) for alcohol detection, as mentioned, thermometer for determination of body temperature of the subject, and infrared signal system for detection of distance from the skin to the SCRAM unit. The gadget, worn as an ankle Bracelet, “sniffs" every 30 minutes and transfers data via a wireless connection to a probation officer or other law-enforcement official. The device can also detect tampering. This device is used frequently in courts where Judges impose conditions of release after an arraignment or preliminary hearing or by probation departments after sentencing.

Not surprisingly there are critics of these devices and the technology. Opponents have argued that there is the possibility of radio, electrical, or other electromagnetic interference at the location of an alleged violation. Hlastala, M.P., and Barone, P.T. Identification of Transdermal Ethyl Alcohol. DWI Journal: Law & Science: Vol. 22, No. 11, Page 5 (November, 2007)

There is also a possibility that cologne/perfume applied to the skin can contaminate the area and interfere with the SCRAM device’s determination of alcohol presence. This theory has been kept alive by a study that found that alcohol does not necessarily absorb directly into the skin but can remain for a considerable time. Giles, H.G., Meggiorini, S., Renaud, G.E.. Determination of Gas Sensor Instruction and Relationship with Plasma Concentration. Alcohol, Clinical and Experimental Research. Vol. 11, No. 3, Pages 249-253 (1987)

Another possible source of error according to one study is that the SCRAM device calculation of skin alcohol concentration could be up to 19 % higher than the actual measurement in the blood. Buono, M.J. Sweat Ethanol Concentrations are Highly Correlated with Co-Existing Blood Values in Humans. Experimental Physiology. Vol. 84, Pages 401-404 (1998) Yet another possible problem with the device concerns its sensitivity to temperature, both the internal body temperature and external skin temperature on the user. Phillips, M. Sweat-Patch Test for Alcohol Consumption: Rapid Assay with an Electrical Detector. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research. Vol. 6, No. 4. Pages 532-534 (1982)

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