DUI Continuous Electronic Monitoring Device Detailed

Electronic Monitoring Tests DUI Probationers for Alcohol-All Day, Every Day


Ohio was the first state to add use of a continuous alcohol monitoring device to the possible sanctions for drunk drivers in the state. Just 2 ½ years later, the device that makes such monitoring possible is in such demand that the Denver Business Journal recently named its manufacturer, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS), one of the Top Ten Fastest Growing Large Companies in Colorado.

According to AMS, in just three years on the market, this little-known device has monitored nearly 20,000 offenders and conducted approximately 38 million alcohol tests. The device is an ankle bracelet that samples the wearer's sweat and measures blood alcohol content (BAC). In those three years, usage has spread to 36 states, where the monitoring system is used in DUI and/or domestic violence cases.

Traditional breathalyzer, blood or urine tests can be administered randomly or on the probation officer's suspicion in most jurisdictions, but only those who are under the influence at the moment the test is administered are caught. With continuous monitoring, big brother is always watching, and the neither the states nor the company make any apologies for that.

A 2004 AMS press release quotes an Ohio provider of treatment and monitoring services as saying, "Conventional alcohol testing has posed some challenges in the past, because we would only know if a person consumed alcohol by administering a breathalyzer test while the alcohol was still in the person's system. With SCRAM, there is no way to avoid detection. Big brother is definitely watching."

The technology, known as SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring) can be used directly by law enforcement agencies or licensed by private companies who provide monitoring services to probation departments. The monitoring systems cost about $50-100 to install and $10-12/day to maintain, costs that most jurisdictions pass along to probationers directly or in increased probation fees.

While DUI lawyers have expressed concern about the slippery slope we've stepped onto when information is collected directly from a probationer's body and electronically transmitted to a probation officer, law enforcement officials don't appear concerned. Probationers, they argue, voluntarily agree to those terms. Anyone who chooses not to agree is free to remain in prison or jail until he's served his full sentence.

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