Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring systems, or SCRAM bracelets, are often punishments imposed after conviction for alcohol-related offenses. While wearing a SCRAM bracelet may be better than being in jail, the devices come with their own set of challenges,  especially if you’re dealing with SCRAM bracelet false positives — a common occurrence in the state of Texas. 

However, being forced to wear a SCRAM monitor isn’t just inconvenient because of the expenses, the invasion of privacy, and the possible errors impacting your future, it can be downright terrifying. 

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 bracelet false positives could make the difference between a successful probation and a trip to prison. 

Mark Thiessen and the Houston DWI lawyers at the Thiessen Law Firm are here to talk about SCRAM false positives, as well as what you can do if you are faced with one. Looking for the best DWI lawyer Houston has to offer? Call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 to protect your future. 

How SCRAM ankle monitors work

Court-ordered alcohol monitoring bracelets are devices that are intended to continuously monitor an individual’s alcohol consumption. The technology behind these bracelets has progressed rapidly over recent years, but the basic mechanism uses transdermal alcohol testing to evaluate the presence of alcohol in the wearer’s body — no breath, blood, or saliva required.

If not breath or blood, then what does the SCRAM bracelet use exactly to detect alcohol? Your sweat. Humans are almost always sweating and 1% of all alcohol you consume is excreted through your skin. The bracelet, which is worn around your ankle, contains sensors that use transdermal alcohol testing technology, which measures the amount of alcohol vapor emitted through your skin.

Every 30 minutes, the transdermal alcohol monitoring oxidizes a sweat sample and converts it to an electrical signal for the bracelet to analyze. The data is then collected and transmitted to a monitoring center, where the data is reviewed — and where you will be reported if you reach 0.02 blood alcohol concentration. 

What does a SCRAM bracelet detect?

SCRAM ankle monitors are designed specifically to detect the presence of ethanol, or alcohol, in your system. But keep in mind that they are engineered to detect the presence of alcohol above a very small level, so it won’t matter if you were technically under the legal alcohol limit in Texas — if you’ve had anything at all to drink, you will be penalized. 

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.

Because SCRAM monitors measure such minute amounts of alcohol consumption at such a high sample rate (every 30 minutes) they can provide a pretty accurate timeline of any drinking, and your probation officer (or your judge) will likely take this timeline as gospel. 

SCRAM bracelets and false positives

Despite the advancements in SCRAM technology, false positives remain a possibility, and therefore a serious concern for people being monitored. Despite what your probation officer may try to tell you, SCRAM bracelets aren’t perfect. False positives occur when the bracelet incorrectly indicates that the wearer has consumed alcohol when, in fact, they have not. This can happen in a few ways. 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, mouthwash, dandruff shampoos, and even kombucha.

And, technically speaking, any of these items can 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. While spraying some hairspray in your bathroom probably won’t cause a false positive, spending multiple hours in a hair salon with hairspray all around you 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.

FAQs about SCRAM bracelets 

We get a lot of questions about alcohol monitoring bracelets and SCRAM bracelet false positives. Some of the more common questions are answered below. 

How often does a SCRAM bracelet report alcohol consumption?

A SCRAM bracelet is essentially monitoring you 24/7. It tests for alcohol in your system every 30 minutes and wirelessly uploads a full report about once every 24 hours.

Will a SCRAM bracelet keep me out of jail?

Whether or not a SCRAM ankle monitor will keep you out of jail depends heavily on the circumstances of your sentencing and your ability to stay sober. Because SCRAM devices are often used as a condition of parole it is likely that you’ve already done whatever time is required, and the SCRAM bracelet is intended to keep you from going back in. 

For people facing charges for DWI offenses, especially felony DWI in Texas, wearing a SCRAM is often a condition of early release. While SCRAMs can give people convicted of DWI a second chance, a SCRAM bracelet false positive can also take everything away, which is why having skilled attorneys who know the science behind SCRAMs is so essential. 

Continue reading: Is drunk driving a felony?

Does the SCRAM bracelet really work?

A large part of the problem with SCRAM false positives is that they are considered reliable by judges and probation officers. While SCRAMs are convenient and utilize advanced technology, they do share some commonalities with notoriously inaccurate breathalyzers and can trigger false positives from several everyday substances.

How long will I have to wear a SCRAM bracelet?

You will typically 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.

Can a 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 — or you’ll find yourself back in court and needing the support of a trusted drug charge lawyer.

Thiessen Law Firm fights SCRAM bracelet false positives

You don’t have to go to jail because of a SCRAM bracelet false positive. Mark Thiessen, an ACS-CHAL Lawyer-Scientist and triple board certified attorney, is uniquely qualified to challenge SCRAM ankle monitor false positives using the science of toxicology to analyze your case and protect your freedom.

If you or a loved one is facing termination of probation or revocation of your sentencing agreement because of a false positive for alcohol, you can’t afford to wait. Texas courts are harsh on DWI, and once they grant leniency they are unlikely to do it twice. You need an aggressive trial attorney by your side before it’s too late if you plan on avoiding jail time. 

Take control of your situation and call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online to begin defending your future. 

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Thiessen Law Firm

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.