SCRAM Alcohol Monitoring Bracelets: Dos and Donts
SCRAM stands for secure continuous remote alcohol monitor, and is usually a bracelet that fits around a criminal defendant’s ankle. It is approximately two inches in height, wide enough with adjustable straps to be wrapped around an ankle, and a little less than an inch thick. It can be ordered as part of pre-trial conditions of bond, most often in cases involving a DUI or DWI, but also in other cases where substance abuse may be an issue such as Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Cannabis, Reckless Homicide, and sometimes even cases involving Domestic Battery and Aggravated Battery.
SCRAM bracelets are ordered by the court in order to monitor a defendant’s alcohol use. Generally, in the cases where SCRAM is ordered, the defendant is also ordered not to consume any alcohol whatsoever. A SCRAM bracelet is meant to ensure compliance with that special condition of bond.
In most situations, the defendant must go to the arresting police department, or a local police department, and make an appointment to be fitted for the SCRAM bracelet. A representative from the SCRAM manufacturing and administration agency will fit the defendant with the SCRAM bracelet. This person is not usually connected to the case, or a police officer, or an officer of the court. However, a defendant should nevertheless be careful not to make any statements regarding his or her case to this person.
After the defendant is fitted with the SCRAM bracelet, the agent will likely provide basic information about the device, and a number to call with any problems. The defendant also has to pay for the SCRAM bracelet and monitoring as part of his pre-trial fees.
If the device detects any alcohol, the device sends an alert to the SCRAM agency. The alert is referred to as a violation. There is a fee that must be paid for each alert that the SCRAM agency receives, which is not connected to the court costs, and is paid to the SCRAM agency directly. Alerts are also reported to the police, the State, and the Court. If notified of an alert, the State can file a petition for violation of bail bond, and the Judge can hold a hearing in which the defendant must explain the violation to the Court’s satisfaction. If the defendant cannot do so, the Court can increase the bond or order the defendant be remanded to custody, or both. A skilled criminal defense attorney will be needed to explain to the Court why the Court should not do so.
Is the SCRAM bracelet painful?
No, and it should not be. It has adjustable straps, and the agent fitting the bracelet will only screw in the bracelet when it can be comfortably rotated around the entire ankle, usually with a finger’s width of space between the bracelet and the skin. With swelling, it is possible that the bracelet will become tighter. If this happens, the proper procedure is to call the agent and arrange an appointment, usually at the same police department, to have it adjusted once more. If the bracelet is painfully tight, call the agent immediately and request an appointment for a re-fitting.
Is the SCRAM bracelet noticeable?
Yes, if the bare ankle is exposed. Clothing such as long dresses or skirts will conceal it, as will the legs of most trousers or jeans. Skinny jeans, however, or pants with a small cuff, will most likely not fit over the bracelet. Choose your clothing accordingly if you wish to conceal the bracelet. DO NOT try to fit skinny jeans, leggings, pants with small cuffs, or socks higher than ankle socks between the bracelet and the skin. This will send out an alert that the SCRAM bracelet is being tampered with, which may carry both a civil and criminal penalty, and which, to many judges, is equivalent to an alert that alcohol has been consumed. There should not be any clothing consistently between the bracelet and the skin for more than a few minutes at a time, at the absolute most. When it does its reading every 30 minutes, the SCRAM bracelet emits a short buzzing sound, but that should not be too noticeable, or disruptive. (And you can always pass it off as your phone vibrating, if asked.)
Can I bathe with the SCRAM bracelet?
Yes, but you cannot and should not submerge the bracelet under water for any duration of time. This means no swimming in swimming pools or larger bodies of water, no hot tubs, and no baths unless that ankle is kept out of the water. Showers, however, will not damage the device in any way or send out any alerts.
Can I sleep while wearing the SCRAM bracelet?
Yes, although it may feel unusual in the beginning to sleep with the thick and heavy bracelet around your ankle. That is something you will get used to. However, make sure that your bedsheets do not tangle around your legs in such a way as to come between your skin and the SCRAM bracelet, as if this happens for more than a few minutes it will send an alert. You can remedy the situation by pushing the bracelet as high up your leg as it will go, so that it will be tight and not trap the sheets. However, since there is a chance that the bracelet may come lose in your sleep, especially if you toss and turn, you might consider wrapping a handkerchief or bandana or rag around it in such a way that it is protected from the sheets getting in between it and your ankle.
What can send out an alert?
There are many ways that a SCRAM bracelet will send out an alert to its monitoring agency, and as a result, to the State and the Court.
- Consuming alcohol. If you consume even a small amount of alcohol, the device will send an alert that you have violated. The easiest way to avoid this is to comply with pre-trial conditions of bond and not consume any alcohol. Kissing someone who has just consumed alcohol will not ordinarily send out an alert, according to the manufacturer.
- Having any article of clothing come between the bracelet and the skin for more than a few minutes. This sends out an alert that the device is being tampered with. Be very conscious of this, and do not tuck your clothing between the bracelet and your skin, do not wear socks that go higher than your ankle, and do not let bed sheets come between your skin and the bracelet.
- Actually tampering with the bracelet. Do not do this. Do not even try to do it. Do not even think about doing it.
- Using any product that contains alcohol. You do not need to consume alcohol in order for the device to send out an alert. If you use cologne that contains alcohol, for example, it will send out an alert.
- Ingest synthetic ginger powder. This is a strange one, but if you eat food containing synthetic ginger powder (as opposed to fresh ginger), it will send out an alert.
What products should I avoid?
Any product with alcohol should be avoided. This is a very broad category, and becomes even broader if you catalog every product you use during an average day and on special occasions. It is recommended to sit down and review your entire day and the products you use. Think about the following, from the moment you wake up: Do you use toothpaste? Mouthwash? Do you floss? Whitening strips? If you’re a woman, do you use any douching products? Any other feminine hygiene products? Do you have any rashes that require a topical cream, whether it’s prescription or over the counter? Do you use facial cleanser? Moisturizer? Toner? Cologne? Shaving cream? Aftershave? Any disinfectant for cuts or scrapes? Shampoo? Conditioner? Shaving gel for the body? Bodywash? Soap? Hand soap? Hand sanitizer? Hair gel? Any kind of styling product? Lotion? Any kind of lip moisturizing product (like Chapstick, Carmex, lip gloss, etc)? Perfume? Deodorant? Fabric sprays like Febreeze? Body mists? Makeup remover? Makeup removing wipes? Medicines like NyQuil, etc? Any medicine that might contain alcohol? Things like extract or vinaigrettes that contain alcohol, even if it cooks out? Do you work with any liquids that could make contact with your skin? What about cleaning products that you use? Do you dye your hair? All of these products, most of them seemingly innocuous, need to be examined. Take a look at the ingredients, or do some Googling. Do they contain alcohol? At some point, given the myriad of things we come into contact every day, it might be easier to make a list of what you can use as opposed to what you cannot use.
Okay, so what SHOULD I use to avoid sending out an alert?
Try to use natural products.
- Regarding toothpaste, most brands contain alcohol, or an alcohol compound that will send out an alert. Tom’s of Maine is the brand recommended by the agency itself, as it will not send out an alert.
- Regarding mouthwash – do not use it. Stick to unflavored, untreated floss, but to be safe, consider using floss plackets that use unflavored string.
- Since you’ll likely have to avoid hair gel – and you should, since hair gel is particularly likely to have alcohol in it – try light oils such as coconut or jojoba or even olive oil if your hair is frizzy or dry. Use a very small amount so as not to look greasy. Additionally, John Frieda and L’Oreal Paris have alcohol-free lines of hair products available, including mousses and sprays. Read the names and the ingredients carefully.
- If you need anti-dandruff shampoo (which you cannot use as it will certainly set off the device), try mixing 1 tsp or more of baking soda in about 8oz of water, and rubbing that into your hair like shampoo. Look online for more precise ratios. Baking soda is excellent at treating scalp issues, but do not use this more than once a week, as it will dry out the hair if used more frequently.
- For normal shampoo, look online for shampoos that are alcohol free. Try to go as natural as you can. Visit Whole Foods and ask the sales clerks there. If you are a man, this is not the time to get uncomfortable about buying shampoo and/or other cleansing products that you might have labeled as women’s products before. Burt’s Bees has an alcohol free shampoo available, and Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as health and vitamin stores, will likely have many options as well.
- Instead of using hand sanitizer, try to find a restroom where you can wash your hands instead. If you see someone using hand sanitizer, do not shake their hand immediately after.
- For soap or other cleansing products, visit stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, and ask one of the sales clerks. They’ll be used to questions like that, and will not think anything of it.
- For deodorant, try Dove. Its clinical protection antiperspirant is alcohol free, as are many of its other products, including facial toner, which almost always has alcohol. Also check out Burt’s Bees, which has alcohol free available options as well.
- For lotion, remember not to get any kind of lotion near the bracelet, just to be safe. You can stand dry ankles for a few months. For the rest of your body, check out Burt’s Bees lotions, most baby lotions (try California Baby, which is stocked at most Target stores), Yes to Coconuts, Savannah Bee Co., or light body oils (try sweet almond oil, olive oil, and occasionally coconut oil).
Anything else I should know?
You cannot wear the SCRAM bracelet if you need an MRI, X-Ray, or CT scan. If you need any of these, talk to your attorney, who will likely get a court order saying that you have permission to have it removed for the day of or days surrounding your MRI, X-Ray, or CT scan. You must meet with the SCRAM agent so he or she can remove your bracelet and then put it back on again after. You can exercise with the bracelet, even high intensity workouts. Because the bracelet bouncing around so close to your bones may be uncomfortable or even painful, consider putting a sweat band over it to keep it in place. Just make sure nothing gets between it and your skin. You should not set off alarms at security checkpoints when leaving stores, but might set off more secure metal detectors such as the ones found at courthouses or federal buildings. You absolutely cannot spray tan with the bracelet on.
What else can I do to protect myself against an alert?
Keep a diary of all the products you use on a daily basis. On each separate page, start with the date, and then list every product you used, by brand name, in order of use. This will seem unnecessary and tedious, but it will be very helpful to your attorney in the event of a violation.
What happens if I violate?
On your next court date, there might be a hearing on the alert received by the SCRAM agency. The State may argue that the Court increase bond and take you into custody until you can post on the new bond, if you are allowed to post. You will need a skilled criminal defense attorney to explain to the judge why you violated (hopefully due to the use of a product containing alcohol, as opposed to actually drinking alcohol) and why the judge should not increase bond or take you into custody. It will help your attorney if you are able to provide a diary of all products used, so that the attorney can cross-reference the date of any alleged violation with your diary of product use, and use that to bolster his or her arguments to the Court.