Electronic Monitoring in California Criminal Cases

We help clients get "electronic monitoring" as an alternative to jail throughout California...including Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, San Jose, Ventura, the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County.

As a law firm comprised of former police investigators and former district attorneys, we know the best ways to persuade judges you should get home confinement rather than serving time behind bars.

In this article, our California criminal defense attorneys1 explain the different types of electronic monitoring programs used by this state.

What is Electronic Monitoring?

Electronic monitoring is the sort of "catchall" phrase that includes any type of house arrest or home confinement program.  "House arrest" is actually a somewhat of a misnomer, because you aren't necessarily required to remain in your home at all times.

Depending on the circumstances of your offense -- and on what type of terms and conditions you and your defense attorney can secure -- you may be permitted to

  • work or attend school,
  • tend to family obligations,
  • attend and participate in counseling appointments, alcohol / drug classes, community service, etc.,
  • travel to medical appointments, and
  • participate in any other court-approved activities.

That's why it is called electronic monitoring.your mobility is electronically monitored.2

And as Ventura criminal defense attorney Darrell York3 explains, "House arrest isn't automatically offered by the court.  This type of alternative sentencing must be requested by a savvy attorney who not only knows that this type of sentencing is available but who also knows the most effective arguments to convince the judge that it is appropriate."

Violating the terms of your electronic monitoring order...

In general, instruments that are used to enforce house arrest send a signal to the electronic monitoring agency.  When an individual is on house arrest.and travels beyond his/her authorized radius.the agency's computer either recognizes and records the fact that the signal was interrupted, or alerts the agency that the offender is in an unauthorized area.

When this type of violation takes place, the agency notifies your probation or parole officer, subjecting you to arrest.4 So when the judge grants you the opportunity to participate in electronic monitoring, make certain you comply with all your terms and conditions.

If you abuse that privilege.and fail to adhere strictly to your specific electronic monitoring program.California probation laws allow the judge to revoke your house arrest and sentence you to jail or prison to serve the remainder of your sentence.5

The Different Types of Electronic Monitoring Instruments Utilized in California

California...and actually each county within the state.uses a variety of different types of electronic monitoring systems.  We describe some of the most common below.

Home detention monitoring

Home detention monitoring is the most basic type of electronic monitoring.  It is typically enforced through an ankle transmitter bracelet and a home monitoring unit.  This unit can be installed as long as you have a power outlet and access to either a home phone line or a cellular signal.  As the offender, you are usually responsible to pay for any costs that are associated with using any electronic monitoring instrument (although people are not generally excluded from the program based exclusively on an inability to pay).6

Although each law enforcement agency may work with a different home monitoring supplier, all home monitoring systems basically operate in a similar fashion.  The bracelet sends a 24-hour signal to the monitoring agency that provides real-time communication of any irregularities.

Irregularities include tampering with the instrument or violating your curfew or physical locale restrictions.

And all house arrest programs can be modified to include random drug testing, home visits, and face-to-face office visits.

The SCRAM device

SCRAM stands for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor. The SCRAM device is a type of electronic monitoring that is sometimes imposed as a California driving under the influence penalty.

The SCRAM device is also an ankle bracelet, but this bracelet continuously monitors alcohol concentration through the skin (which is known as "transdermal" monitoring), as opposed to monitoring your whereabouts. If the person consumes any alcohol, the device alerts the monitoring agency, and they notify the court.

A person ordered to wear a SCRAM device is generally permitted to go and travel wherever he likes...he is just forbidden from consuming alcohol.

Home detention plus SCRAM

When a judge wants to keep tabs on an offender's whereabouts as well as his/her alcohol consumption, there is a device that monitors both.  The transdermal alcohol bracelet is used in conjunction with a base station to monitor your curfew restrictions as well as your blood alcohol level.

Drug Patches

Drug patches are sometimes used to monitor those convicted of violating California drug laws.  These patches are removed and replaced weekly.  Once removed, they are tested for traces of

  • marijuana,
  • heroin,
  • PCP,
  • cocaine, and
  • methamphetamines.

GPS tracking

Although we typically think of GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) tracking as being exclusive to our cars, it's not.  GPS tracking is a critical tool in the electronic monitoring world.

Using a combination of GPS and wireless network technologies, these tracking devices transmit data on a 24-hour basis using commercial cellular networks.  And because the technology is so advanced, it allows the monitoring agency to create specific inclusion and exclusion zones, mapping, and tracking, so that your whereabouts are always known.

As is the case with all electronic monitoring programs, each local jurisdiction relies on its own preferred method of tracking.  This means that where GPS may be quite common in one jurisdiction, it may be reserved for only the most serious offenders in others.

All of the above types of electronic monitoring have been discussed in the context of alternative sentencing.  However, these instruments are also used to monitor and supervise individuals who are placed on parole following their release from the California state prison.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Oversees Its Own Electronic Monitoring Program

California's parole laws dictate that all inmates who are released from state prison shall be placed on parole supervision.7 The Electronic Monitoring Unit.a unit within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO).is the agency that is responsible for overseeing electronic monitoring.

Within this system, GPS tracking is reserved for high-risk parolees such as

Straying from your approved radius or tampering with your electronic monitoring instrument can trigger a parole revocation hearing and.depending on the circumstances.a revocation of parole.  If the state revokes your parole, you will most likely be reincarcerated.9

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It bears repeating that local courts and counties have their own ways of implementing electronic monitoring procedures.  Consult with your attorney to review the options that are utilized in the county in which you were convicted.

If you or loved one is in need of help with electronic monitoring and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

In addition, you may also find helpful information in our related articles on California Probation Laws; California Parole Laws; Driving Under the Influence Penalties; The SCRAM Device; California Drug Offenses; and Penal Code 290 PC Sex Offender Registration.

To learn about electronic monitoring in Nevada, go to our information page on electronic monitoring in Nevada.


Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Penal Code 1203.016 -- Home detention; electronic monitoring or supervising devices; conditions.  ("(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the board of supervisors of any county may authorize the correctional administrator, as defined in subdivision (h), to offer a program under which minimum security inmates and low-risk offenders committed to a county jail or other county correctional facility or granted probation, or inmates participating in a work furlough program, may voluntarily participate in a home detention program during their sentence in lieu of confinement in the county jail or other county correctional facility or program under the auspices of the probation officer. (b) The board of supervisors may prescribe reasonable rules and regulations under which a home detention program may operate. As a condition of participation in the home detention program, the inmate shall give his or her consent in writing to participate in the home detention program and shall in writing agree to comply with the rules and regulations of the program, including, but not limited to, the following rules: (1) The participant shall remain within the interior premises of his or her residence during the hours designated by the correctional administrator. (2) The participant shall admit any person or agent designated by the correctional administrator into his or her residence at any time for purposes of verifying the participant's compliance with the conditions of his or her detention. (3) The participant shall agree to the use of electronic monitoring, which may include global positioning system devices or other supervising devices for the purpose of helping to verify his or her compliance with the rules and regulations of the home detention program. The devices shall not be used to eavesdrop or record any conversation, except a conversation between the participant and the person supervising the participant which is to be used solely for the purposes of voice identification. (4) The participant shall agree that the correctional administrator in charge of the county correctional facility from which the participant was released may, without further order of the court, immediately retake the person into custody to serve the balance of his or her sentence if the electronic monitoring or supervising devices are unable for any reason to properly perform their function at the designated place of home detention, if the person fails to remain within the place of home detention as stipulated in the agreement, if the person willfully fails to pay fees to the provider of electronic home detention services, as stipulated in the agreement, subsequent to the written notification of the participant that the payment has not been received and that return to custody may result, or if the person for any other reason no longer meets the established criteria under this section. A copy of the agreement shall be delivered to the participant and a copy retained by the correctional administrator. (c) Whenever the peace officer supervising a participant has reasonable cause to believe that the participant is not complying with the rules or conditions of the program, or that the electronic monitoring devices are unable to function properly in the designated place of confinement, the peace officer may, under general or specific authorization of the correctional administrator, and without a warrant of arrest, retake the person into custody to complete the remainder of the original sentence. (d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the correctional administrator to allow a person to participate in this program if it appears from the record that the person has not satisfactorily complied with reasonable rules and regulations while in custody. A person shall be eligible for participation in a home detention program only if the correctional administrator concludes that the person meets the criteria for release established under this section and that the person's participation is consistent with any reasonable rules and regulations prescribed by the board of supervisors or the administrative policy of the correctional administrator. (1) The rules and regulations and administrative policy of the program shall be written and reviewed on an annual basis by the county board of supervisors and the correctional administrator. The rules and regulations shall be given to or made available to any participant upon request. (2) The correctional administrator, or his or her designee, shall have the sole discretionary authority to permit program participation as an alternative to physical custody. All persons referred or recommended by the court to participate in the home detention program pursuant to subdivision (e) who are denied participation or all persons removed from program participation shall be notified in writing of the specific reasons for the denial or removal. The notice of denial or removal shall include the participant's appeal rights, as established by program administrative policy. (e) The court may recommend or refer a person to the correctional administrator for consideration for placement in the home detention program. The recommendation or referral of the court shall be given great weight in the determination of acceptance or denial. At the time of sentencing or at any time that the court deems it necessary, the court may restrict or deny the defendant's participation in a home detention program. (f) The correctional administrator may permit home detention program participants to seek and retain employment in the community, attend psychological counseling sessions or educational or vocational training classes, or seek medical and dental assistance. Willful failure of the program participant to return to the place of home detention not later than the expiration of any period of time during which he or she is authorized to be away from the place of home detention pursuant to this section and unauthorized departures from the place of home detention are punishable as provided in Section 4532. (g) The board of supervisors may prescribe a program administrative fee to be paid by each home detention participant that shall be determined according to his or her ability to pay. Inability to pay all or a portion of the program fees shall not preclude participation in the program, and eligibility shall not be enhanced by reason of ability to pay. All program administration and supervision fees shall be administered in compliance with Section 1208.2. (h) As used in this section, the following words have the following meanings: (1) "Correctional administrator" means the sheriff, probation officer, or director of the county department of corrections. (2) "Minimum security inmate" means an inmate who, by established local classification criteria, would be eligible for placement in a Type IV local detention facility, as described in Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations, or for placement into the community for work or school activities, or who is determined to be a minimum security risk under a classification plan developed pursuant to Section 1050 of Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations. (3) "Low-risk offender" means a probationer, as defined by the National Institute of Corrections model probation system. (i) Notwithstanding any other law, the police department of a city where an office is located to which persons on an electronic monitoring program report may require the county correctional administrator to provide information concerning those persons. This information shall be limited to the name, address, date of birth, and offense committed by the home detainee. Any information received by a police department pursuant to this paragraph shall be used only for the purpose of monitoring the impact of home detention programs on the community. (j) It is the intent of the Legislature that home detention programs established under this section maintain the highest public confidence, credibility, and public safety. In the furtherance of these standards, the following shall apply: (1) The correctional administrator, with the approval of the board of supervisors, may administer a home detention program pursuant to written contracts with appropriate public or private agencies or entities to provide specified program services. No public or private agency or entity may operate a home detention program in any county without a written contract with that county's correctional administrator. However, this does not apply to the use of electronic monitoring by the California Department of Corrections or the Department of the Youth Authority as established in Section 3004. No public or private agency or entity entering into a contract may itself employ any person who is in the home detention program. (2) Program acceptance shall not circumvent the normal booking process for sentenced offenders. All home detention program participants shall be supervised. (3)(A) All privately operated home detention programs shall be under the jurisdiction of, and subject to the terms and conditions of the contract entered into with, the correctional administrator. (B) Each contract shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following: (i) A provision whereby the private agency or entity agrees to operate in compliance with any available standards promulgated by state correctional agencies and bodies, including the Board of Corrections, and all statutory provisions and mandates, state and county, as appropriate and applicable to the operation of home detention programs and the supervision of sentenced offenders in a home detention program. (ii) A provision that clearly defines areas of respective responsibility and liability of the county and the private agency or entity. (iii) A provision that requires the private agency or entity to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility, submitted and approved by the board of supervisors, in amounts and under conditions sufficient to fully indemnify the county for reasonably foreseeable public liability, including legal defense costs, that may arise from, or be proximately caused by, acts or omissions of the contractor. The contract shall provide for annual review by the correctional administrator to ensure compliance with requirements set by the board of supervisors and for adjustment of the financial responsibility requirements if warranted by caseload changes or other factors. (iv) A provision that requires the private agency or entity to provide evidence of financial responsibility, such as certificates of insurance or copies of insurance policies, prior to commencing any operations pursuant to the contract or at any time requested by the board of supervisors or correctional administrator. (v) A provision that permits the correctional administrator to immediately terminate the contract with a private agency or entity at any time that the contractor fails to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility. (C) All privately operated home detention programs shall comply with all appropriate, applicable ordinances and regulations specified in subdivision (a) of Section 1208. (D) The board of supervisors, the correctional administrator, and the designee of the correctional administrator shall comply with Section 1090 of the Government Code in the consideration, making, and execution of contracts pursuant to this section. (E) The failure of the private agency or entity to comply with statutory provisions and requirements or with the standards established by the contract and with the correctional administrator may be sufficient cause to terminate the contract. (F) Upon the discovery that a private agency or entity with whom there is a contract is not in compliance pursuant to this paragraph, the correctional administrator shall give 60 days' notice to the director of the private agency or entity that the contract may be canceled if the specified deficiencies are not corrected. (G) Shorter notice may be given or the contract may be canceled without notice whenever a serious threat to public safety is present because the private agency or entity has failed to comply with this section. (k) For purposes of this section, "evidence of financial responsibility" may include, but is not limited to, certified copies of any of the following: (1) A current liability insurance policy. (2) A current errors and omissions insurance policy. (3) A surety bond.")

3Ventura criminal defense lawyer Darrell York uses his former experience as a Glendale Police Officer to represents clients at the Ventura Hall of Justice, the Van Nuys courthouse, the Pasadena courthouse, the Burbank courthouse, the Glendale courthouse, the Lancaster courthouse, the San Fernando courthouse, and the Criminal Courts Building.

4See California Penal Code 1203.016 -- Home detention; electronic monitoring or supervising devices; conditions, subsection "c", endnote 2, above.  ("(c) Whenever the peace officer supervising a participant has reasonable cause to believe that the participant is not complying with the rules or conditions of the program, or that the electronic monitoring devices are unable to function properly in the designated place of confinement, the peace officer may, under general or specific authorization of the correctional administrator, and without a warrant of arrest, retake the person into custody to complete the remainder of the original sentence.")

5See same.

6See same, subsection "g".  ("(g) The board of supervisors may prescribe a program administrative fee to be paid by each home detention participant that shall be determined according to his or her ability to pay. Inability to pay all or a portion of the program fees shall not preclude participation in the program, and eligibility shall not be enhanced by reason of ability to pay. All program administration and supervision fees shall be administered in compliance with Section 1208.2.")

7In re Dannenberg (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1061, 1070.  ("Construing the pertinent statute, Penal Code section 3041, the court ruled that once an indeterminate life prisoner reaches minimum parole eligibility, the Board must set a fixed date for parole release, pursuant to the principle of "uniform terms" for crimes of similar gravity, and with due regard for the statutory minimum term for the inmate's offense, unless it finds the prisoner's crime "particularly egregious" in comparison to other offenses of the same class.")

8Information taken from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's website.

9California Penal Code 3057 -- Confinement of revocation of parole. ("(a) Confinement pursuant to a revocation of parole [determined in a parole revocation hearing] in the absence of a new conviction and commitment to prison under other provisions of law, shall not exceed 12 months, except as provided in subdivision (c).")

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