The judge in your DUI case could impose several different penalties for a guilty plea or guilty verdict. A DUI conviction can lead to jail time, fines, probation, suspended license, DUI school, and summary probation. You may also be ordered to wear a SCRAM device.
What is a SCRAM Device?
You must wear a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) device continuously if the judge imposes this punishment for DUI. The device monitors your blood alcohol content (BAC) through your sweat. The process is called transdermal alcohol testing.
When you consume alcohol, a small portion is eliminated through your urine. However, a small about leaves the body through your breath, saliva, and sweat.
DUI breathalyzer tests pick up on the alcohol on your breath. SCRAM devices sense alcohol that escapes through your skin (sweat).
The device sends the information to a monitoring center every 30 minutes. If the SCRAM device detects alcohol in your system, the court is notified of the violation.
Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. developed the device. You wear the monitor around the ankle like a bracelet. It is water-proof and tamper-proof.
Adding House Arrest to the Alcohol Monitoring System
If a person is sentenced to house arrest instead of jail or prison, the court may order a SCRAMx device. The device monitors the person’s BAC levels and monitors the person’s exact location. Therefore, the court knows precisely when you leave your home and where you go when you leave.
What Types of Cases Does the Court Order SCRAM Devices?
SCRAM devices are used in cases when the defendant is ordered not to consume alcohol as a condition of probation or house arrest. In addition, judges may order alcohol monitoring for repeat offenders or in DUI cases involving alcohol dependence or addiction.
SCRAM devices may be used in other cases. Examples of cases that might result in a sentence to wear a SCRAM device include, but are not limited to:
- California drug court
- As a condition of bail, early parole, or pre-trial supervision
- California Veterans court
- Supervision and support for re-entry programs
- Offenders convicted of underage drinking in California
- Military diversion programs
- As a condition of release or probation for domestic violence offenders
In many criminal cases, a common condition of probation is not using alcohol or drugs. SCRAM devices allow the courts to monitor the condition without the need for random alcohol tests through the probation office or other government agencies.
What is the Average Term Someone Wears a SCRAM Device in California?
The seriousness of the DUI offense is a significant factor in the duration of your SCRAM monitoring. Additionally, the judge considers other factors such as your criminal record, prior DUI offenses, and your dependency on alcohol. As a result, you could be sentenced to wear the SCRAM device for a month, year, or more.
Does the Court Give Me the SCRAM Device to Wear?
No, the court does not have these devices on hand. If the court sentences you to BAC monitoring, you must contact an authorized SCRAM service provider in California. You arrange to have the monitor placed on your ankle through the service provider.
The provider instructs you not to remove the device or tamper with the device. Getting a SCRAM device off your ankle is possible, but it is a challenge.
However, if you tamper with a SCRAM device, the monitoring system receives notice and lets the court know what you are doing. As a result, the judge may schedule a hearing and sentence you to jail time instead of BAC monitoring.
How Much Does it Cost for a SCRAM Device? Who Pays for it?
You are responsible for paying for the monitor and the daily monitoring fee. Generally, it costs between $50 to $100 to install a SCRAM device on your ankle. After that, you must pay the daily monitoring fee.
Monitoring fees for a SCRAM device can be as much as $12 per day for BAC monitoring. The fee increases for BAC and position monitoring. You may pay up to $15 a day for BAC monitoring and house arrest.
The court may absorb the cost of the service for indigent offenders. Also, the cost may vary based on how much income the person receives each month.
If the judge sentences you to SCRAM monitoring for a year, you could pay as much as $4,400 for the service.
Does Wearing a SCRAM Device Give a Defendant Credit for Time Served?
Monitoring for BAC with a SCRAM device does not equal time served. However, if you are sentenced to house arrest with a SCRAM device, the judge may give you credit for time served.
House arrest means that you cannot leave your home except for specific errands approved by the court. Therefore, house arrest is a form of incarceration.
You may be allowed to work or go to school. If so, the court sets a curfew that you must obey. Also, the court restricts the places you may go while leaving home for work or school.
What Should I Do if Someone Is Drinking Alcohol Around Me?
The SCRAM device can tell the difference between alcohol in your system and alcohol in the environment. However, your agreement with the service provider generally states that you will not use alcohol or have alcohol around the bracelet.
Medications Containing Alcohol Should Not Impact the Device
The SCRAM monitor generally does not produce a false positive if you take medication with alcohol or use other products that might contain small amounts of alcohol, such as breath sprays, mouthwashes, and other consumer products.
However, if you consume enough of these products to become intoxicated, you violated the terms of your probation. Therefore, the judge may order you to be picked up and placed in jail.
SCRAM Devices vs. IIDs
Courts often order DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in their vehicles as a penalty for driving under the influence or a condition of receiving a restricted driver’s license. An IID prevents someone who is intoxicated from driving. The IID prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver has any alcohol on his breath when he blows into the device.
However, an IID does not prevent someone from consuming alcohol. In those cases, the court may order a SCRAM device instead of an IID to ensure the person does not use alcohol during summary probation or house arrest.
What Are the Other Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in California?
California places strict penalties on drunk drivers. A DUI is a priorable offense. Another DUI conviction within ten years of a prior conviction enhances the penalties for the current offense. Felony DUI charges have no time limits.
Therefore, the penalties for a second DUI conviction within ten years are harsher than those for a first-time DUI conviction. Likewise, third, fourth, and subsequent drunk driving convictions carry much harsher penalties than a first or second-time DUI conviction.
For example, the potential penalties for a first-time DUI conviction in California include, but might not be limited to:
- A jail sentence of up to six months
- Fines and assessments between $1,500 and $2,000
- Summary probation for three to five years
- Suspension of driving privileges for six months (a DMV administration suspension could be longer)
- Attendance at DUI school for three to nine months
The above penalties apply to a first-time DUI misdemeanor charge. However, if the court finds aggravating factors in your case, it could order enhanced penalties. Aggravating factors include, but are not limited to underage drinking and driving, refusing to submit to a chemical test, a BAC of .15% or higher, or having a child under 14 years old in the car.
Now, assume that this is your third DUI conviction within ten years. The penalties for a third-time DUI conviction include:
- Summary probation for three to five years
- At least 120 days in county jail, but could be up to one year
- Fines and assessments between $2,500 to $3,000
- 30-month DUI education program
- Install an IID for two years
- Driver’s license revocation for three years (may qualify for a restricted driver’s license after 18 months or right away with an IID)
As with a first-time DUI offense, if the judge finds aggravating factors present, your penalties for a DUI conviction may increase significantly.
Furthermore, a DUI that caused serious injuries may increase to a felony charge. The penalties for felony DUI become much more severe.
What Should I Do if I Am Arrested for Driving Under the Influence in California?
Do not assume that you are guilty of DUI if the police arrest you for drunk driving. An arrest is not a guilty verdict. The state must prove its case under California drunk driving laws. According to California Vehicle Code §23152, it is unlawful for a person to:
- Operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher (the legal limit)
- Operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol
If your BAC was below .08%, a California DUI criminal defense lawyer might argue you were not under the influence of alcohol while driving. There could also be other defenses to DUI such as:
- Police officers lacked probable cause for a DUI stop or arrest
- The police administer the field sobriety tests incorrectly
- A medical condition or health condition caused a false positive or a high BAC reading
- The samples for blood or urine testing were contaminated
- The BAC machine malfunctioned, or the police officers failed to calibrate it correctly
- You were not driving the motor vehicle at the time of your DUI arrest (you were asleep in the car or sitting in the car)
Before you plead guilty to DUI charges, it is best to consult with an experienced California DUI defense lawyer.
A DUI lawyer may be able to have the DUI charges dismissed. If not, the attorney may negotiate a plea deal that includes reduced charges and/or penalties. If possible, your DUI defense attorney may be able to keep you out of jail by arguing for a SCRAM device.