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SCRAM Devices

What is a SCRAM device?

A SCRAM device is a tool used by courts, probation departments, and sometimes defense attorneys to monitor a client’s blood alcohol content level. It is worn around one’s ankle and takes samples of perspiration every 30 minutes to monitor and report blood alcohol levels. Data from the device is transmitted to the SCRAM company at least once a day. If alcohol consumption is indicated, the data is forwarded to SCRAM technicians who verify the drinking event before alerting court officials.

Who is required to wear a SCRAM device?

The most common reason a client is required to wear a SCRAM device is to enforce sobriety on those who have alleged repeat or habitual alcohol-related episodes. Often judges will require clients on bond or probation who have multiple positive alcohol tests on their car’s ignition interlock device or elsewhere to wear a SCRAM device. This assures the judge that the person will not be driving any car, not just their own, while intoxicated and is often an alternative to incarceration.

In serious cases, the SCRAM device can also be useful for defendants and defense lawyers to prove to judges, juries, and prosecutors that the client has not consumed any alcohol while their case is pending.

How exactly does the SCRAM device work?

The SCRAM device contains an electrochemical fuel cell to detect alcohol. A pump inside the device pulls a sample of perspiration to the alcohol sensor for analysis. The amount of reaction of the fuel cell is dependent on the amount of alcohol in the perspiration sample. The reaction is interpreted and a transdermal alcohol concentration is calculated. This calculation provides an estimation of the blood alcohol concentration. The data is analyzed over time to differentiate between any possible errors due to other contaminants in the perspiration (lotion, for example) and valid drinking events.

How does the SCRAM device prevent people from tampering with it?

The SCRAM device contains an IR sensor that measures the reflection of an IR beam off the client’s leg. The amount of reflection is monitored and compared with a baseline set when the client first installs the device to determine if any material is obstructing the contact between the device and the client’s leg.

What does it cost to wear a SCRAM device?

The average cost for a SCRAM device is $450 a month.

What problems are there with SCRAM devices?
1) SCRAM devices are expensive.

2) The size of the device makes its use fairly cumbersome.

3) Because data from the device is only reported once a day, there is not a good way to provide independent verification of a drinking episode. By the time the episode is reported and a client is notified that they are suspected of drinking, it is too late to obtain an independent breath or blood test to dispute the SCRAM result.

4) For people in recovery, it is not clear that the device provides any benefit to them other than verifying that they are not drinking during the period they wear the device.

5) The accuracy of the quantitative blood alcohol results provided to courts and probations departments is questionable.

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