Alcohol Monitoring Bracelets ("SCRAM")


News reports hit the wires today across Ohio about "SCRAM". What is SCRAM? Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring. This device is available to Ohio judges to install on repeat Ohio DUI offenders. In theory, such a device is fantastic. Clearly, anything that helps an alcoholic stay sober is a welcome tool not only to the judiciary and law enforcement but the recovering alcoholic and his/her family.

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Unfortunately, this technology may backfire and cause otherwise stalwart sober alcoholics to relapse. How so? I've represented several clients who participated in the SCRAM pilot project in Columbus, Ohio. One client, "Bob", had 7 months of sobriety heading into his sentencing. The Judge took one look at his DUI record and offered SCRAM in lieu of 2 months in jail.

The SCRAM device was installed on "Bob's" ankle. Every hour for the next 4 months, this device vibrated while it tested "Bob's" perspiration -- it vibrated as loud as a cell phone vibrating on a wooden table. By day, it drew the attention of co-workers and bystanders. After work at his son's baseball games, other parents couldn't help but to look over at "Bob" and wonder what in the world was going on with him. And, at night, it woke him up every hour. The comfort level was just a shade better than a medieval torture device. Granted, it beats jail, but there is another side to this story.

Over time, "Bob's" mental and emotional strength was being tapped to cope with this Orwellian ankle ligature. The same strength needed to fight the black spell of alcoholism. His previous 7 months of sobriety was in danger of relapse. He begged to go to jail for the remainder of the time.

Finally, the judge agreed to have the SCRAM removed from his ankle. "Bob" had been a perfect client while on probation and he earned the next step in his sentencing -- the de-installation of SCRAM. I am concerned that other multiple offender DUI's with several months of sobriety will be subjected to the same "Chinese Water Torture" that will drive them to relapse.

SCRAM can be tweaked. But, not until judges and probation officers understand the rest of the story.