SCRAMx or “SCRAM” is an alcohol monitor that goes around the ankle of a defendant.  York County judges are mandating the use of SCRAM bracelets on most defendants who are facing a second (or greater) DUI charge within the last ten years.

What follows is a description of what SCRAM is, how the courts use it in York County, what the reasons are for using it, and, at the very end, some ways it can be helpful to a defendant.

The SCRAM bracelet is installed by York County Adult Probation, usually as a bail condition, and it remains on the defendant’s ankle during the entire case through sentencing and sometimes afterwards.  The cost is about $300.00 a month.  There are significant fees if the bracelet is broken or damaged.

Essentially, SCRAM monitors the sweat coming out of your skin.  This is what is called, “insensible perspiration” or a very low amount of sweat that you don’t notice.  There is alcohol in all sweat, if you have been drinking, and SCRAM checks how much is in that sweat.  That is it in a nutshell.

SCRAM has anti-tampering technology built into each unit.  It has temperature sensors, proximity sensors, and anti-tampering wiring.  When installed, it takes a reading of the skin next to each sensor and it uses that as a “baseline” for future measurements.  If the surface next to the sensor changes color or texture substantially, the device records an alert.  If the temperature reads something other than 98.6 (plus or minus a few degrees), it sends out an alert.

Because SCRAM monitors alcohol coming out of the person wearing it and because the anti-tampering protections are very strong, the courts in York have determined that it is reliable enough to use to monitor people charged with DUI (oddly even doing this for most non-alcohol, “drugged DUI” cases) or other alcohol-related offenses.

The SCRAM monitor in most cases is installed shortly after the arrest of someone showing a prior DUI on their driving or criminal history.  A defendant is ordered by a judge at Central Booking on the night of the arrest to go to Probation to have it put on, or face having bail revoked.

The rationale from the District Attorney and the police is that someone with a prior DUI is likely to have a substance abuse issue of such significance that public safety demands that they are monitored to make sure that they do not drink at all while on bail.  Whether the drinking happens at home or even if it does not involve driving (both legal behaviors) does not matter in most cases.  In essence, the courts are mandating total sobriety from the day of arrest until the day that a defendant’s charges are resolved.  It is either that, or face sitting in jail until the case is resolved.

Often (but not always) the decision to impose SCRAM is made without considering a defendant’s individual circumstances, such as a long time having passed between the old DUI offense and the new charge, whether a blood alcohol content (BAC) is low, or where the current and past DUI offenses did not involve alcohol at all.  In such circumstances, it seems exceptionally unfair to present an accused person with a presumption of innocence with a “devil’s choice” between the following two options:

  • pay $300.00 per month for a device that may have no tangible benefit to society or
  • go to jail indefinitely until the case is resolved

SCRAM is also used by the courts to try to ensure sobriety after sentencing and in the DUI Treatment Court program.  This use, which in most cases requires the defendant’s to choose the option, is less subject to concerns about due process and fundamental fairness.  After all, any sentence involving SCRAM requires a conviction or an admission of guilt.  A defendant who is sentenced following a trial or a guilty plea is in a much different position than someone who is in a “pretrial” mode with the accompanying presumption of innocence.

All this gives a general view of what SCRAM is and how it is most-often used in York County.  There are wrinkles, though.  In some cases, the courts have been willing to listen to bail modification requests to allow SCRAM to be avoided in favor of something more sensible, like supervised bail.

SCRAM can also be used to help accumulate credit time against some sentences or as a bargaining chip to reduce a charge.  This requires an early entry into alcohol treatment, usually.  If you have been put on SCRAM, you really should talk to an attorney ASAP.  Instead of wearing it and burning $300.00 per month, you may have a chance to get credit against a future sentence in case.  To discuss SCRAM and other issues related to your DUI case, call York DUI lawyer Joseph N. Gothie at (717) 848-8455 for a free in-office consultation.