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Michigan Criminal Law Blog

SCRAM Tether

The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor tether, otherwise known as a SCRAM tether, was designed to monitor defendants on probation to ensure that they refrain from consuming alcohol. The tether is fitted around the ankle and analyzes the offender’s perspiration for traces of alcohol.  Every thirty minutes a reading is sent through a modem in the person’s residence to central computer system.  If the data collected indicates an individual has exceeded more than one drink per hour (for an average person), the supervising probation officer is notified.

The SCRAM teather is not the first transdermal alcohol measuring device on the market, but it is among the newest.  While these types of devices have been around for some time; Michigan courts – as the federal courts – have been reluctant to determine that the data from a SCRAM tether is admissible as evidence.  In Michigan, a scientific instrument must gain general acceptance of the relevant scientific community in order to meet the applicable standard (see Daubert v. Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.).   However, there still remains some dispute as to devices accurateness particularly related to the time lapse from when the alcohol is consumed to when it detected in the individual’s perspiration, as well as whether or not some of the reading are actually the result of prolonged drinking episodes or other factors may be triggering it.   Recent studies indicated that there is much more occurring within the body with regard to the discharge of alcohol through the skin that the court was previously aware and much more remains to be done.

One of biggest complaints of offenders on probation is that the testing requirements are so stringent and expensive, it is nearly impossible to comply.  In some cases, offenders are asked to come to the probation facility several times a week for alcohol and drug testing and are required to pay up to $10 dollars for each test.  In only a short period of time, those on probation are being asked to pay hundreds if not a couple thousand to comply with the probation requirements.  The SCRAM teather, or similar device, would at least provide some financial relief to those on probation and possibly reduce overhead cost to the State.

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