If you were recently arrested in St. Petersburg, Clearwater or the surrounding areas of Pinellas County for an alcohol related offense, such as a DUI, you may have been ordered to wear a “Continuous Alcohol Monitor” (CAM).
After your arrest, you would have appeared in front of a Judge for an “Advisory Hearing”. At this legal proceeding, the judge made a preliminary determination of whether you qualified for the services of the Public Defender’s Office and addressed the issue of setting a reasonable bond or ROR in your case. You should know, that in addition to setting a bond/ROR, the judge has the authority to impose other conditions of your release. For example, the judge might order:
- No consumption of alcohol;
- No driving until you have secured a hardship license;
- A curfew;
- No Contact with the Victim (common in Domestic Battery cases).
The lawyers in our office have noticed a rising trend in judge’s ordering that defendants wear a SCRAM as a condition of their release. This is true even in those cases where an individual has no prior record of arrest. We suspect that the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office recent purchase of additional SCRAM devices has been the motivating factor. The PCSO charges an administrative fee of $10 per day for individuals ordered to wear this device. The wholesale ordering of a SCRAM at Advisory Hearings may be interpreted as the county’s effort to secure a return on their investment. These fees can become quite expensive, since the average DUI case can last between 4-6 months prior to a resolution.
Why Was I Ordered to Wear the SCRAM?
There are some fact patterns that may cause the judge to have concerns that the subject’s continued consumption of alcohol could pose a danger to the community. Common cases that result in a SCRAM monitor being ordered may involve a subject with:
- Prior DUI convictions;
- A high breath or blood test reading;
- A crash, accident, injuries; or
- Minors were located in the vehicle at the time of the subject’s arrest.
That being said, our office has encountered many cases that do not have these “aggravating” factors, yet the Defendant was still ordered by the judge to wear the SCRAM monitor.
How Does the Monitor Work?
SCRAM monitors are worn on the ankle and measure transdermal alcohol levels. If you have smelled alcohol on a person after a night of drinking, you already have the premise of how this device operates. After alcohol is consumed, it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Alcohol gets metabolized through the liver, eliminated through the urinary tract, and some is passed through the skin through sweat. The CAM device measures alcohol that passes through a subject’s pores through the sweating process. The SCRAM monitor measures alcohol levels continuously without a requirement that the subject participate in testing.
What Happens if I Test Positive for Alcohol?
If the device detects alcohol, a report will be electronically generated that is subject to an initial review by a member of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office “Pre-Trial Services” Division. A decision is made whether it was a “confirmed alcohol consumption event” or an “environmental alcohol contact” event. When looking at the data, a confirmed alcohol consumption event will show a rise in blood alcohol, and then a steady decline in alcohol levels as the subject absorbs and eliminates the alcohol. An environmental alcohol contact event will show a sudden peak, and a sudden decline in alcohol level.
If the PCSO Pre-Trial Services division determines that an alcohol consumption event occurred, a warrant for your arrest will be signed by the judge assigned to your case for violation of a condition of your of Pre-Trial Release.
Could I have Avoided Being Ordered to Wear a Scram Device?
You could have avoided a Scram monitor requirement if you had achieved your release from the Pinellas County Jail before the advisory hearing. This can be accomplished in many DUI cases by posting a cash or surety bond after being booked in the Pinellas County Jail. If a bond is promptly posted, the subject will normally be released prior to the advisory hearing.By not having to appear before the judge, the individual will have side-stepped any SCRAM requirement.
Can I Lawfully Get My SCRAM Alcohol Monitor Removed?
If a SCRAM monitor has been ordered in your case, an experienced Pinellas County DUI Defense Attorney can file a “Motion to Modify the Conditions of your Pre-Trial Release.” Our office routinely files written motions outlining our arguments as to why the removal of the Scram device is appropriate in our clients’ cases. Thereafter, our office will schedule a hearing with the the Judge assigned to your case. At the hearing, the judge will:
- Examine your success thus far in avoiding the consumption of alcohol;
- Consider the absence of any of the aforementioned “aggravated circumstances”;
- Review the court records to see if you have been re-arrested or charged with a new criminal offense;
- Make an inquiry if you have had contact with a prohibited person or place;
- Acted in a responsible manner that demonstrates your respect for the court system. (For example, retained an attorney, registered for a DUI course if appropriate, or participated in an alcohol / substance abuse evaluation at the direction of your lawyer.)
- Consider any special aspects of your occupation that could be adversely impacted by having to wear the Scram device.
It is important to recognize that the ordering of a SCRAM device at the advisory hearing is often accomplished in a perfunctory summary fashion. The brief nature of these first appearance hearings does not afford the judge the opportunity to fully consider all relevant factors. For this reason, it is not uncommon for the court to delete the SCRAM requirement after being fully apprised of factors that support our argument that that he does not pose a future risk of harm to members of the public.
Can Wearing a SCRAM Monitor Help My Case?
This evidence can sometimes be helpful in demonstrating that our client does not have an alcohol addiction, since they have refrained from using alcohol. The argument that follows is that his arrest was an isolated incident that is not likely to reoccur. In some cases, our client’s successful completion of a period of SCRAM monitoring can be used in our argument to the State that a Reduction of his DUI charge to the lesser offense of Reckless Driving is appropriate. The facts of every case are unique and the early advice of your lawyer can be highly beneficial.
Experienced Attorneys Who Can Help?
Our attorneys have nearly twenty-five years combined experience handling DUI and Criminal Defense matters. Call our office for a free consultation today.
The Law Offices of Russo Pelletier & Sullivan, P.A.
9721 Executive Center Drive North
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
If you have been ordered to wear a SCRAM monitor and have a pending case in Pinellas County, we can help! Call our office to discuss the facts and circumstances of your case.
Visit our dedicated criminal defense or DUI website for more information on your particular charge.