Hairspray Leads to Alcohol Monitoring False Positive


In DeFuniak Springs, Florida, a judge has agreed that a 17-year-old girl should not be held in jail as the result of the alarm triggered by her alcohol monitoring anklet, after evidence shows the device may very well have been set off by her hairspray.

According to Kimberly White, reporting for the Northwest Florida Daily News, Elyse Tirico is awaiting trial on charges of DUI manslaughter and DUI with serious bodily injury related to the January 4 car accident that killed Meghan Burkhart-Smith, a classmate of Tirico’s.

Tirico has worn an ankle bracelet since March following a court order to do so. The alcohol detection device indicated that Tirico had consumed alcohol from 9:38am to 6:48pm. on July 15.

At that time, Tirico claims to have been at her job, working as a receptionist for a hair salon. Clay Adkinson, her DUI attorney, contends that his client consumed no alcohol during that time and presented affidavits from witnesses who were with her that day and confirmed that they had not seen Tirico drink or exhibit signs of alcohol influence.

Adkinson also called Jeff Hawthorne to testify at Tirico's hearing. Hawthorne is the co-founder of Alcohol Monitoring Systems Inc., and inventor of the SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) ankle bracelet. He testified that his device tests blood-alcohol levels through perspiration.

On July 15, Hawthorne says Tirico's anklet issued an alert after three different readings showed her blood alcohol level at above .02.

Adkinson also stated that alerts are occasionally produced via products other than alcohol. He says all users of the device are given a list of products that contain alcohol.

The list includes some toiletries, perfumes, and cleaning supplies. Hawthorne was asked whether or not hairspray could produce such a false positive, he said it was possible. Tirico has said that hairspray was heavily used in the salon where she works on the day of the positive readings.

Walton County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Wells was swayed by Hawthorne's testimony.

"Based on the evidentiary hearing today, the court would find that it appears that the detection made by (the alcohol monitoring device) was a false positive, and so, based upon that, I'm not going to revoke her pre-trial release."

Tirico's trial was originally scheduled to begin this month but was continued to January of next year. After the positive reading from the anklet, whether or not Tirico would spend that time incarcerated was at issue. The device takes a reading every 30 minutes, and issued three separate alerts on the date in question showing Tirico’s blood alcohol level above .02.

Source: Northwest Florida Daily News

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