What is Continuous Alcohol Monitoring?
Continuous alcohol monitoring is becoming more prevalent in DWI cases in the Kansas City area. Continuous alcohol monitoring (“CAM”) is performed by an ankle bracelet that measures transdermal alcohol content. One percent of alcohol is lost through the skin as a gas. TAC – or transdermal alcohol content mirrors BAC/blood alcohol content, but on a curve that happens two hours later. CAM devices measure a person’s TAC approximately every half hour. Additionally, some devices have GPS monitoring or radio monitoring and can be used as house arrest devices.
Continuous alcohol monitoring is a relatively recent problem for defendants to deal with in DWI cases. Many courts are requiring multiple offenders to wear these devices as a condition of bond. In other words, defendants have to wear the device to get out of jail before trial. Jackson County, Lafayette County, and Clay County judges all require people accused of multiple DWI offenses to wear the CAM devices. Every county is required to make defendants in Chronic Offender cases use CAM devices. Missouri was used as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study on the issue. Additionally, Missouri has a very strong community of privatized probation service companies. These companies are strong advocates of CAM.
How is Continuous Alcohol Monitoring Administered?
Continuous alcohol monitoring can be administered in a variety of ways. There are basically two competing devices on the market: SCRAM and TAD. The SCRAM device uses a fuel cell to measure transdermal alcohol content, similar to the way many breathalyzers measure blood alcohol content. The TAD uses a hydrated proton exchange membrane (and someday I will figure out what that means). I have never had a client placed on the TAD device. SCRAM is by far the more popular option.
CAM can be administered either by a bonding company or a private probation service (like ESA). The further you get away from Kansas City, the more likely it is that CAM will be administered by a bonding company.
What Does it Cost?
Continuous alcohol monitoring is not free – in fact, it is quite expensive. Generally, it costs approximately $15 per day. In Jackson County, it is $13 a day. There is also a set up fee that varies between $50 and $100. I have coupons with some providers that may be able to offset a small part of the cost for my clients. As you can imagine, these costs can get quite expensive, and that creates problems. Many clients want to move their case as fast as possible because CAM is so expensive. I have had a client who spent over $12,000.00 on SCRAM.
Is it Good or Bad?
This is a difficult question to answer. CAM undoubtedly limits freedom and costs substantial amounts of money. But, I have had great success using the results of CAM in my clients’ favor. The literature on this subject is fairly convincing – people who successfully do not drink for 90 days have a substantially higher chance of recovering from alcoholism than those who do not. And if nothing else, CAM usually prevents people from drinking for that long.
However, failure on these devices is not an option. Your bond will be revoked, and you will lose whatever benefit of the doubt you had left. In short, these devices are a double edged sword, generally highlighting good behavior and exposing bad.
It is also worth noting that I do not believe these devices are fool proof. They malfunction like any device is capable of malfunctioning. Sometimes, the devices can register false positives because of contaminates that fool the device (but that is the subject for another article).
Regardless, this is something defendants are going to have to be prepared to deal with in DWI cases.