California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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You must wear a SCRAM bracelet as a condition of probation following a DUI/DWI offense. Will the device detect even a small amount of alcohol in my system? How sensitive is it?
SCRAM devices will usually detect if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than 0.02%. However, most jurisdictions say that you will only commit some type of SCRAM violation if the device detects that you have a BAC of 0.02% or higher.
But please keep in mind that any of the following factors can impact just how sensitive a SCRAM bracelet is:
Note that “SCRAM” refers to “Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor.” The SCRAM bracelet was developed by Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS) of Colorado in 2003.
A SCRAM bracelet is a type of alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet. The bracelet tests your sweat for the presence of alcohol about every 30 minutes. It then wirelessly transmits the test results to a regional monitoring center.
SCRAM devices are also sometimes used to perform house arrest monitoring (in addition to detecting alcohol). A SCRAM bracelet with this capability is often referred to as a “SCRAMx.”
SCRAM bracelets can detect small amounts of alcohol in your sweat, even blood alcohol concentrations below 0.02%.1
However, SCRAM systems usually consider it a “positive consumption violation” if the wearer’s alcohol consumption results in a BAC of 0.02% or higher.2
With that said, however, the precise sensitivity of a bracelet will likely depend on such factors as:
As to gender, one study found that the SCRAM bracelet was good at detecting five or more drinks. But the bracelet performed better below this baseline for women as opposed to men.4
A SCRAM alcohol monitoring device essentially uses “transdermal alcohol testing.” “Transdermal” just means “through the skin.”
So, a SCRAM device detects if you were drinking alcohol by measuring when a small portion of consumed alcohol gets excreted through your skin via your sweat.
Please keep in mind that, once consumed, alcohol eventually enters your bloodstream and then leaves your body mostly in your urine.
However, a small amount is also excreted in your:
Note that about 1% of ingested alcohol escapes the body through “insensible perspiration.” Insensible perspiration is where a small amount of ethanol vapor passes through your skin. Ethanol is the type of alcohol that is found in most alcoholic drinks.6
A SCRAM alcohol monitoring system then essentially works by measuring the ethanol vapor leaving the skin around your ankle.
If a certain amount of alcohol is detected, the court or your probation officer gets notified.
You will likely be ordered to wear a SCRAM alcohol bracelet as a condition of your probation (either misdemeanor or felony probation). You might face this condition if the court or a probation officer has to conduct alcohol testing to ensure you are sober.
You could also fall subject to continuous remote alcohol monitoring and face bracelet use when:
SCRAM systems are designed to make a distinction between consumed alcohol and other alcohol that might be in your immediate area.
So, if you or someone else (either accidentally or intentionally) spills a drink on the bracelet, the device might record a “spike” in its data. But this spike will get recorded differently than when the bracelet detects ethanol vapor.
Note that the court or your probation officer may impose some type of penalty if you try to:
You generally should not register a false positive by taking any medicines. This also holds true if you take or consume:
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.