How to Defend an Alleged SCRAM Violation According to Boyle

Barone Defense Firm Partner and Senior Trial Attorney Michael J. Boyle recently was one of the guest presenters at the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) Fall Conference at Boyne Mountain.  The annual seminar was attended by hundreds of criminal defense attorneys from throughout the State of Michigan. CDAM is one of the largest and well-respected membership groups in the State and is dedicated to the improvement of criminal advocacy across all practice areas in the criminal justice system.

Boyle accepted the invitation to speak and was the only attorney that presented on two topics.  He presented on Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, known as SCRAM, and he also did a presentation on Self-Defense and understanding Michigan’s Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrines.

Boyle has enjoyed the opportunity over the last several years to be part of the process of educating and teaching other lawyers the complex understanding and best practice techniques in representing clients on multiple disciplines. He has presented on numerous occasions for the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys (MIAOWIA), the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section, CDAM, and the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL).

The SCRAM presentation focused on understanding the basic scientific principles and how the device itself obtains a sample, analyzes the sample, and reports the sample. The device itself, or another brand utilizing the same technology, is an alcohol tether worn on the offender’s ankle. It monitors the evolution of alcohol from the wearer’s blood through their skin. When an individual consumes alcohol, after being absorbed into the blood stream and distrusted throughout the body, some of it is “expired” through the skin in imperceptible perspiration. Because water is “hydrophilic” meaning “water friendly” it binds to the water in the blood and then “follows” the water out of the body through the skin. The ankle tether is designed to capture this alcohol and measure it as it escapes the body.

In explaining how to defend an alleged SCRAM violation, Mr. Boyle focused on describing what information is necessary to obtain from the prosecutor and monitoring agency and then how to use this information to properly assess the alleged violation. He also addressed and what specifically to look for when preparing a defense to alleged alcohol consumption or blocking episode.

SCRAM is a brand name of a trans-dermal alcohol monitor, and these devices are a commonly used tool utilized by judges and probation officers to monitor compliance with bond condition and/or a condition of probation. They are most frequently used for alcohol and drug related cases, and are increasingly being utilized in non-alcohol/drug related crimes and some family law matters. o

In a criminal case, a violation of this condition can be quite significant that could cause revocation of the bond and a remand to jail.  Therefore, it is necessary for counsel to understand what SCRAM is and to identify a bona fide violation for an ersatz violation.

The most commonly alleged issues include an alleged drinking event or a blocking or tampering to avoid detection of same.  Boyle’s presentation covered all of these topics and also incorporated a trial practice segment involving some real-world actual case studies for the attendees to practice litigating.  Boyle added, “theoretical understanding is without question necessary, but when teaching lawyers, it is as important or maybe even more important to have the practical experience”.

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