The SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring is a tamper-resistant ankle bracelet that tests your sweat for blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) every 30 minutes. It then wirelessly transmits the results to a regional monitoring center.
Use of the SCRAM device is often ordered as a jail alternative or condition of probation in a DUI case. This lets you get treatment for alcohol abuse and go about your normal daily routine.
Or the device can be outfitted at no additional cost to perform house arrest monitoring. A SCRAM device with house arrest monitoring is known as the “SCRAMx.”
A SCRAM is sensitive to low levels of alcohol, but generally a reading of .02 BAC is considered a positive result.
Offenses for which the SCRAM program is often ordered include:
- Driving under the influence, California Vehicle Code 23152(a),
- Driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08% or higher, California Vehicle Code 23152(b),
- DUI causing injury, California Vehicle Code 23153, or
- Any other alcohol-related offense.
To help you better understand the SCRAM and SCRAMx systems, our California DUI defense lawyers answer the following frequently asked questions below:
- 1. What is the SCRAM CAM system?
- 2. What is SCRAMx?
- 3. How does continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) system work?
- 4. Who is required to wear a SCRAM ankle bracelet?
- 5. In what kinds of cases can a SCRAM device be used?
- 6. How long do I have to wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet?
- 7. How much does SCRAM CAM cost and who pays for it?
- 8. Where can I get a SCRAM device?
- 9. Can I remove the ankle bracelet?
- 10. Can I work and go to school during the SCRAM or SCRAMx program?
- 11. Will I get credit for “time served” by wearing a SCRAM or SCRAMx bracelet?
- 12. Can I shower or take a bath with an alcohol monitoring device?
- 13. What happens if there is alcohol in the environment or someone spills a drink on me?
- 14. What if I need to take medicine that has alcohol in it?
SCRAM is a remote alcohol monitoring system developed and marketed by Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS) of Colorado. It consists of an ankle bracelet that a DUI offender wears 24/7. The bracelet is both
- tamper-proof and
The bracelet checks your sweat every 30 minutes for the presence of alcohol. The results are then transmitted, usually on a daily basis, to a regional monitoring system. If you are considered high-risk, the data may be transmitted more frequently.
If alcohol is detected in your system, the court will then be notified (usually within 24 hours).
SCRAM stands for “Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor.” It was developed by AMS in 2003. AMS manufactures the SCRAM and SCRAMx bracelets and licenses administration of the program to various local agencies.1
SCRAMx is a SCRAM ankle bracelet that also contains a radio frequency (“RF”) house-arrest monitoring system. It can thus check for both alcohol use and your presence in, or absence from, the home.2
SCRAM devices use “transdermal alcohol testing.” “Transdermal” means “through the skin.” CAM devices work because a small portion of consumed alcohol gets excreted through your skin via your sweat.
The way SCRAM works is this:
Alcohol in the bloodstream is ultimately eliminated from the body (excreted). Most of it is excreted in the urine. But a small amount is also excreted in the
- sweat and
That is why DUI breath tests, for instance, are able to detect the presence of alcohol.
About 1% of ingested alcohol escapes the body through “insensible perspiration.” This consists of a slight amount of ethanol vapor that passes through the skin. Ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks.4
In other words, you “sweat out” a small portion of the alcohol from any alcohol consumption. The CAM system measures this sweat through the skin of the ankle.
You may be required to wear a SCRAM device whenever not drinking alcohol is a condition of staying out of jail. Often, the court orders it as a condition of California DUI probation.
To ensure compliance with the order, the judge may require you to wear a
- SCRAM or
- SCRAMx device.
This allows the court to verify that you are, indeed, refraining from alcohol use.5
As a practical matter, judges in California DUI cases only order SCRAM when you have
- prior DUI convictions and
- a serious alcohol dependence or addiction.
In addition to adult DUI sentencing and probation, SCRAM is often used:
- As a condition of the bond during pretrial supervision;
- As part of a specialty court program, such as:
- As a condition of early parole in California (if you are released early due to jail or prison overcrowding);
- To support offender re-entry programs;
- As part of a sentence or probation condition for domestic violence (when alcohol was a contributing factor in their offense); and
- To help if you are convicted of violating California’s underage drunk driving laws.6
A judge can require you to wear the SCRAM bracelet/ anklet for any period of time. Typical periods range from 30 days to more than a year.
Factors the judge will consider in setting how much time you must wear a SCRAM device include:
- The seriousness of the present DUI offense,
- The number of prior DUI offenses, and
- The extent of your problem with alcohol.7
Generally, you must pay for the SCRAM program yourself. But if you are indigent, the court system may absorb part of the cost.
Local SCRAM Systems authorized service partners may sometimes lend a small portion of their inventory to you at no cost if you are indigent.
The cost to install the system typically ranges from $50 to $100. Thereafter there is a daily monitoring fee.
Average monitoring fees typically range from:
- $10-$12 per day for continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) alone, or
- $13-$15 per day for CAM with house arrest monitoring.
But costs may vary depending on how much money you make, the monitoring period and whether there is SCRAM service provider in your area.8
SCRAM systems are available from various local service providers. You must contact a local SCRAM service provider in California once a judge issues the order to wear one.
9. Can I remove the ankle bracelet?
The SCRAM device is difficult to remove, but it can be done. However, if you start tampering or removing the device, it will alert the Regional Monitoring Center.
The center will then notify the court. The judge may then schedule a hearing (such as a probation violation hearing) to determine whether to send you to jail time.9
With SCRAM, yes. With SCRAMx, it depends.
The SCRAM program is not a form of house arrest. If you are participating in SCRAM, you still can
- attend school,
- get alcohol treatment, and
- otherwise go about your life.
You just can’t drink alcohol.
The SCRAMx program, however, includes monitoring for both
- house arrest and
- alcohol use.
House arrest can be total or can be based on a curfew.
The exact terms under which you can leave and how far you can go will be determined by the court. If you leave during the period you must be home, an alert will be generated.10
SCRAM, no. SCRAMx, yes.
SCRAM wearers are not sentenced to confinement. So there is no credit for time served while wearing the device.
But SCRAMx systems are only ordered when you are sentenced to house arrest. Since you are in confinement (even if you are free to leave at certain times for certain purposes), credit is usually given for time served.11
Yes to showering; no to taking a bath. SCRAM users are not allowed to submerge the bracelet in water (including swimming pools, hot tubs, and the bathtub).
You can shower and, in fact, need to in order to keep the area around the bracelet clean.12
SCRAM devices can tell the difference between
- consumed alcohol and
- alcohol in the environment.
In some cases, defendants have tried to trick the system by spilling a drink on it or otherwise exposing it to alcohol.
While this will cause a “spike” in the bracelet’s data, it will show a different pattern than consumed alcohol. However, you must sign an agreement not to use products containing alcohol on or around the bracelet.
Accidentally exposing the device to alcohol will not generally be considered a violation. But intentionally trying to trick the device can subject you to court sanctions.13
Taking medicines as directed should not result in a false positive. If you were to consume enough to become intoxicated, it would be considered a violation of the court’s order, even though it came from medicine.
The same is true of
- breath sprays and other
- consumer products containing alcohol.
Charged with a SCRAM violation in California? Call us for help…
If you have been charged with a SCRAM violation or need other help with a DUI, our criminal defense attorneys invite you to contact us for a consultation.
Our criminal justice lawyers create attorney-client relationships throughout California, including 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 more.
We also have offices in Las Vegas and Reno that are versed in the use of SCRAM devices in Nevada DUI cases.
- See SCRAM CAM® Continuous Alcohol Monitoring, SCRAM Systems.
- See note 1.
- Medicine.net, “Alcohol and Nutrition,” third section (“How is alcohol metabolized?”).
- See, for example, ThoughtCo., “Alcohol Versus Ethanol.”
- See, for example, People v. International Fidelity Ins. Co., (. , 2017)
- See, for example, In re N.R. (Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, 2022) D080550.
- See, for example, People v. Servetti (Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, Division Three, 2022) A163080.
- Frequently Asked Questions for SCRAM Participants, SCRAM systems.
- See, for example, In re. Mitchell (. , 2020) B291727
- People v. Winslow (. , 2022) D078773
- See California Penal Code 2900.5(a).
- See note 1.
- See note 8.