SCRAM Violation? Maybe, Maybe Not...

From an out of state commenter:

I received a summons today to appear in court next week. The papers did not even include what the appearance would be for. I have been on the SCRAM bracelet for two months now. This is the second time that I have been notified of violation of the bracelet.

The first was just a failure to download. I just received a prerecorded phone call for that violation, "no biggy." Today when I called the court house to find out why I had to appear, I was informed it was a violation from SCRAM.

I then called SCRAM. I asked what the violation was and when it occurred. She informed me that the violation was tampering, then implied that I had stuck something between the bracelet and my skin.

I have a witness that knows that I was not drinking. I know this does not matter because our judicial system fails all the time and has already convicted me of this DUI that I was
innocent of. I have come to terms with the fact I was found guilty of the DUI. How am I supposed to come to terms with being violated for something that I did not do?

My bracelet is often too tight or way too loose. I also suffer from the scratches and cuts caused by the bracelet. I am female and I know that water weight and bloating are causing the scratches and cuts. I think it has also caused the tampering violation.

The only way something was placed in between is if it happened while I was sleeping.

I understand your cynicism about the system, but it is too early to despair. SCRAM devices are a subset of devices, aka machines, and are far from infallible. For example, check out D.A. Confidential’s full post entitled “A Fine Piece of Lawyering”. It tells the story of a supposed SCRAM violation and the defense attorney that wouldn’t quit until his client’s pleas of innocence were finally vindicated.

First, the accusers:

…the people responsible for the SCRAM came into court.

They showed [the judge] their proof, a print out of a black-and-white graph.

On that graph were two lines, one showing whether the SCRAM had been tampered with, one showing whether Mr. Smith had been drinking. Both lines spiked. Thank you SCRAM people, Mr. Smith stays in jail.

Ah, but was that what really happened? Did the defendant really violate his terms of release, or was it possible that – despite the SCRAM company line – he was innocent of wrongdoing?

So [the defense lawyer] went back to the SCRAM office and obtained another copy of the graph. But he made to sure to get a print out in color, not just a photocopy. Lo and behold, the color graph contained three lines (as opposed to two), each a different color:

  • one showing whether Mr. Smith used alcohol

  • one showing whether Mr. Smith tampered with the SCRAM

  • one showing Mr. Smith's body temperature

The spikes were in the bottom two lines, the ones showing body temp and tampering. The line showing his alcohol use was a flat-line at the bottom of the graph, and had been mistaken by everyone as the baseline, the line you'd draw at the bottom of every graph.

Ooops. Mr. Smith had not, it was now clear, used alcohol.

How does this apply to the commenter’s situation?

But that still left the tampering spike. Well, the ever-diligent [defense lawyer] obtained the second page of the SCRAM report, which showed examples of spikes when the SCRAM had aluminum shoved under it, a wet cloth stuck under it, and when a sock got stuck under it.

Guess which it was? Right, the sock.

DAC’s post goes on to say that the SCRAM folk showed back up in court and “accepted responsibility” for their mistake. Really? What might that entail? Giving this poor fellow whatever he spent on attorney’s fees? Maybe turning back the clock and not jailing him in the first place?

If “accepting responsibility” means showing up in court and telling the judge what he already knows, that is, that you presented yourself as an expert but don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t know how to read your own company’s “graph charts”, and unfairly incarcerated someone, then perhaps they did. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

So, to the commenter, get a lawyer who will bring your witnesses to court, and who knows how to track down the rest of the story, who doesn’t accept whatever the company line is at face value, and you just might be alright.

Good luck.

SCRAM Bracelets, Money, and Big Brother

From the Joliet Herald News, “SCRAM Bracelet Saves More Than Money”:

David Talarico's business features a high-tech bracelet that has the potential to save tax dollars and -- more importantly -- lives.

The devices, called SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), detect alcohol use. The bracelets are worn on the ankle by people who have abused alcohol and are in trouble with the law. Instead of going to jail, offenders wear SCRAM bracelets that monitor their bodies for alcohol 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

OK. So that’s what the SCRAM bracelet is, and yes, it is being used in Austin as well as Illinois.

For folks released on bond for a DWI 2nd offense or higher that are required by statute to install an Ignition Interlock Device, SCRAM sometimes makes sense. It allows them access to many vehicles, instead of just one, and still fulfills the requirement that ‘some machine is making sure they didn’t consume alcohol’ before starting a car. Some folks can’t be tied down to just one vehicle.

However, it is definitely more not less expensive than an Ignition Interlock. [Posting on a Sunday night; I’ll try to get some exact figures on that soon.]

The article continues:

Though some may think the bracelets are intrusive, Talarico, president of Alcohol Monitors of Illinois Inc., thinks they're the wave of the future.

"People call this 'Big Brother,' but the reality is, these are for the people who need a big brother to help them along," he said. "Clearly if somebody can't stay sober on their own, they'll have to go to jail."

The first paragraph sets up a false dichotomy between something being “intrusive” vs. “being the wave of the future”.

And I just want to be clear on this: Talarico, based on your quote, you are at least admitting that it is Big Brother. Right? It’s just that Big Brother is or can be a good thing – that’s your point.

The article ends with an interesting quote from Talarico. I’m just going to quote it, and not comment. It’s one of those “no comment necessary” situations:

He believes the SCRAM bracelet is an important weapon to fight alcohol abuse.

Being in this business, you see both sides of it," he said. "I see SCRAM almost like the war on terror. You never know what you're preventing, but if you believe in what you're doing you know you're doing good."

OK, I said I wouldn’t comment, but I’ve got an overwhelming urge to repeat that last line:

You never know what you're preventing, but if you believe in what you're doing you know you're doing good.