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SCRAM Bracelets & False Positives in the State of Texas

Mark Thiessen
SCRAM Bracelets & False Positives in Texas

There’s no sugarcoating this one: being required to wear a SCRAM bracelet is awful, especially if you have to continuously deal with SCRAM bracelet false positives. Sure, wearing a SCRAM bracelet beats jail by a longshot. But between the expenses, the invasion of privacy, and the room for error, wearing a SCRAM bracelet isn’t just frustrating—it can be downright frightening.

If you or a loved one have been ordered to wear a SCRAM bracelet as part of a sentencing agreement stemming from Texas DWI penalties or another alcohol-related crime in Texas, the ability to separate fact from fiction about SCRAM bracelets & false positives could make the difference between a successful probation and a trip to prison.

How SCRAM bracelets work

Before delving into SCRAM bracelet false positives, it’s important to understand what SCRAM bracelets are and how they work. SCRAM bracelets are ankle monitors that use transdermal alcohol testing to evaluate the presence of alcohol in the wearer’s body—no breath, blood, or saliva required (eeek!).

If not breath or blood, then what does the SCRAM bracelet use exactly to detect alcohol? Your sweat. 1% of all alcohol you consume is excreted through the skin. Humans are almost always sweating, but most of the time it’s not noticeable. SCRAM bracelets analyze that “invisible” perspiration through a process known as transdermal secure, continuous, remote alcohol monitoring.

Every 30 minutes, the transdermal alcohol monitoring oxidizes a sweat sample and converted it to an electrical signal for the bracelet to analyze. It sends alert when you’ve reached 0.02 blood alcohol concentration.

Can SCRAM bracelets detect one beer?

Yes. SCRAM bracelets can detect very low levels of alcohol consumption. While the detection of these levels is not considered a SCRAM bracelet false positive, it does not send an alert for consumption before 0.02 (which is still well below the legal alcohol limit in Texas of 0.08).

That said, your probation officer can still review the reports, see lower consumption levels, and still decide to punish you—even for something as small as half of a light beer.

SCRAM bracelets & false positives

Despite what your probation officer may try to tell you, SCRAM bracelets aren’t perfect. SCRAM bracelet false positives do happen. So bear with us, things are about to get technical.

Alcohol isn’t just in beer, wine, and liquor. There are several forms of alcohol including ethyl alcohol, isopropanol, and methanol — substances commonly found in consumer goods like hairspray, lotions, nail polish, mouth wash, dandruff shampoos, and even kombucha.

And, technically speaking, it is possible for any of these items to trigger a false positive on your SCRAM bracelet.

Now before you panic, it takes more than an updo to trigger a false positive. While your SCRAM device will report the presence of alcohol if one of these products is used nearby, the way it logs its data would show a spike in alcohol that indicates a consumption rate beyond physical possibility.

That said, SCRAM bracelet false positives can happen. For instance, spraying some hairspray in your own bathroom probably won’t cause a false positive, but if you spent multiple hours in a hair salon with hairspray all around you, it could send your probation officer the wrong message.

The real problem? Probation officers and judges aren’t scientists. These devices don’t provide annotated analysis—they simply report what they detect and it’s up to the recipient to analyze and decide what to do with that information.

Between technological shortcomings and plain ol’ human ignorance, people can be and often are accused of drinking due to SCRAM bracelet false positives.

Additional SCRAM bracelet false positive FAQs

“How often does the SCRAM bracelet report alcohol consumption?”

A SCRAM bracelet is essentially monitoring you 24/7 and wirelessly uploads a full report about once every 24 hours.

“Are SCRAM bracelets considered reliable?”

Generally speaking, SCRAM bracelet reliability is well-regarded by judges and probation officers. However, SCRAM bracelets share some commonalities with notoriously inaccurate Breathalyzers and can trigger false positives from a number of everyday substances.

“Can the SCRAM bracelet detect drugs?”

No, SCRAM bracelets do not detect drug use. The SCRAM bracelets used in Texas are capable of tracking two things: your alcohol consumption, and your location (depending on the specifics of your sentencing). However, it is highly likely that your probation or pretrial diversion program will also require some sort of drug testing. If you’re wearing a SCRAM bracelet, your best bet is to stay sober and abstain from everything. Drugs included.

“How long will I have to wear a SCRAM bracelet?”

Typically speaking, you may be expected to wear a SCRAM bracelet for no less than a month but no more than one year. However, the sentence you receive can vary greatly depending on your specific case. (For more on DWI sentencing, check out these posts on additional FAQs: Is DWI a felony in Texas?, What’s the difference between DUI and DWI?)

Aggressive defense for SCRAM bracelet false positives

Why go to jail because of a SCRAM bracelet false positive? As a lawyer-scientist and Houston DWI lawyer, Mark Thiessen is uniquely qualified to challenge SCRAM bracelet false positives using the science of toxicology to analyze your case and protect your freedom.

If you or a loved one face revocation of your sentencing agreement due to a false positive for alcohol, you can’t afford to wait. Take control of your situation and call (713) 864-9000 today to schedule your free consultation.

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